Skip to main content

Full text of "Wesker trilogy"

See other formats


I 



A 

822.914 
W512w 
1960 
c 



UNIVERSITY 


OF FLORIDA 


LIBRARIES 


m 


\umy 


COLLEGE LIBKARY 



THE WESKER TRILOGY 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 
in 2013 



http://archive.org/details/weskertrilogyOOwesk 



THE 

WESKER 

TRILOGY 

Chicken Soup with Barley 

Roots 

Vm Talking About Jerusalem 

Three Plays by Arnold Wesker 



RANDOM HOUSE 
NEW YORK 



The Wesker Trilogy first published i960 
Chicken Soup with Barley © 1959 by Arnold wesker 

Roots © 1959 BY ARNOLD WBSKER 

I'm Talking About Jerusalem © i960 by Arnold wesker 

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CARD CATALOGUE NUMBER 61-6033 
• 

Chicken Soup with Barley and Roots 

were first published individually by 

Penguin Books Ltd in 1959. 



All performing rights of these plays are fully protected, 
and permission to perform must be obtained in advance: 
for professional performances, from Theatrework 
(London) Limited, 12 Abingdon Road, London, w8; 
for amateur performances, from Evans Brothers Limited 
(Evans Plays department), Montague House, Russell 
Square, London, wci. These are the original versions 
of the plays and they do not quite conform with the 
Lord Chamberlain's requirements. 




PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN 



First presentation of the complete Wesker Trilogy was at the 
Royal Court Theatre, London, in the summer of i960, with 
the following cast: 



KATHLEEN MICHAEL 

FRANK FINLAY 

ALAN HOWARD 

MARK EDEN 

CHARLES KAY 

JOHN COLIN 



Sarah Kahn 

Harry Kahn, her husband 

Monty Blatt 

Dave Simmonds 

Prince Silver 

Hymie Kossof, Sarah's brother 

Cissie, Harry s sister, a trade-union organizer cherry morris 

RUTH MEYERS 

DAVID SAIRE 

PATSY BYRNE 

JOAN PLOWRIGHT 

PATSY BYRNE 

CHARLES KAY 

GWEN NELSON 

JOHN COLIN 

ALAN HOWARD 

CHERRY MORRIS 

FRANK FINLAY 

ANTHONY HALL 

TERRY PALMER 

JESSIE ROBINS 

ALAN HOWARD 

CHARLES KAY 

JOHN COLIN 

FRANK FINLAY 

MICHAEL PHILLIPS 



Ada Kahn, daughter of Sarah and Harry 

Ronnie Kahn, son of Sarah and Harry 

Bessie Blatt, wife of Monty 

Beatie Bryant, a friend of Ronnie 

Jenny Beales, her sister 

Jimmy Beales, her brother-in-law 

Mrs Bryant, her mother 

Mr Bryant, her father 

Frank Bryant, her brother 

Pearl Bryant, her sister-in-law 

Stan Mann, a neighbour of the Bealeses 

Mr Healey, a manager at the farm 

Sammy, Dave Simmonds' s apprentice - 

Esther, Harry s sister 

1st Removal Man 

2nd Removal Man 

Colonel Dewhurst 

Dobson 

Daniel Simmonds 



First performances of the individual plays, in this initial 
presentation of the complete trilogy, were as follows: 

Chicken Soup with Barley 7th June i960 

Roots 28th June i960 

I'm Talking About Jerusalem 27th July i960 

Directed by John Dexter 
Designed by Jocelyn Herbert 



A play is ultimately a co-operative effort, and I would like 
to acknowledge my indebtedness to all the actors and actresses 
who eventually brought my plays alive on the stage. And 
in particular I cannot offer enough thanks for the under- 
standing brought to the production by John Dexter, the 
director, many of whose ideas are contained in the versions as 
published. 



NOTE TO ACTORS AND PRODUCERS 

My people are not caricatures. They are real (though 
fiction), and if they are portrayed as caricatures the point of 
all these plays will be lost. The picture I have drawn is a harsh 
one, yet my tone is not one of disgust — nor should, it be in 
the presentation of the plays. I am at one with these people: it 
is only that I am annoyed, with them and myself. 



CHICKEN SOUP WITH BARLEY 



For 
Leah and Joe 



CHARACTERS OF THE PLAY 

Sarah Kahn 

Harry Kahn, her husband 

Monty Blatt 

Dave Simmonds 

Prince Silver 

Hymie Kossof, Sarah's brother 

Cissie Kahn, Harry's sister, a trade-union organizer 

Ada Kahn, daughter of Sarah and Harry 

Ronnie, son of Sarah and Harry 

Bessie Blatt, wife of Monty 



ACT I 

Scene I : October 4th 1936 
Scene 2 : The same evening 

ACT 11 
Scene 1 : June 1946 

Scene 2: Autumn 1947 

ACT III 

Scene 1: November 1955 
Scene 2 : December 1956 



First presented at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, 
on 7th July 1958 



THE SOLO GAME 



Cissie: 
Sarah: 
Prince: 
Hymie: 



Clubs 

K,4,3,2 

A,Q,6 

J,io,8 

9,7,5 



Hearts 

3 

10,5,4 

K,7,J 

A,Q,9,£ 



,6,2 



Diamonds 


Spades 


K,2 


A,KJ,6,4,2 


A,6,5,4 


9,8,3 


J,io,9,8,7 


Q,5 


Q,3 


10,7 



itf HflttJ; Cissie: 
Hymie: 
Prince: 
Prince: 
Sarah: 
Prince: 
Sarah: 



3 Hearts - io - k - A 

3 Diamonds - 2 - 4 - j 

Q Spades - 10 - j - 9 

5 Spades - 7 - 6 - 8 

5 Hearts - 7 - 6 - k Diamonds 

7 Diamonds - q - k Clubs - A 

3 Spades - j Clubs - 9 Clubs - 2 Spades 



[Cissie shows Hand] 



ACT ONE 

Scene i 

October \th, 1936. 

The basement of the Kahns house in the East End of London. 
The room is warm and lived in. Afire is burning. One door, at the 
back and left of the room, leads to a bedroom. A window, left, looks 
up to the street. To the right is another door which leads to a kitchen, 
which is seen. At rear of stage are the stairs leading up into the 
street. 

Sarah Kahn is in the kitchen washing up, humming to herself 
She is a small, fiery woman, aged 37, fewish and of European 
origin. Her movements indicate great energy and vitality. She is a 
very warm person. Harry Kahn, her husband, comes down the 
stairs, walks past her and into the front room. He is 35 and also a 
European few. He is dark, slight, rather pleasant looking, and the 
antithesis of Sarah. He is amiable but weak. From outside we hear a 
band playing a revolutionary song. 

sarah (from the kitchen). You took the children to Lottie's? 

harry (taking up book to read). I took them. 

sarah. They didn't mind? 

harry. No, they didn't mind. 

sarah. Is Hymie coming ? 

harry. I don't know. 

sarah (to herself). Nothing he knows ! You didn't ask him? He 
didn't say ? He knows about the demonstration, doesn't he ? 

harry. I don't know whether he knows or he doesn't know. I 
didn't discuss it with him — I took the kids, that's all. Hey, 
Sarah — you should read Upton Sinclair's book about the 
meat-canning industry — it's an eye-opener . . . 

sarah. Books ! Nothing else interests him, only books. Did 
you see anything outside ? What's happening ? 

harry. The streets are packed with people, I never seen so 

11 



ACT ONE 

many people. They've got barricades at Gardiner's Corner. 

sarah. There'll be such trouble. 

harry. Sure there'll be trouble. You ever known a demon- 
stration where there wasn't trouble ? 

sarah. And the police ? 

harry. There'll be more police than blackshirts. 

sarah. What time they marching? 

harry. I don't know. 

sarah. Harry, you know where your cigarettes are, don't you? 
(This is her well-meaning but maddening attempt to point out 
to a weak man his weakness.) 

harry. I know where they are. 

sarah. And you know what's on at the cinema ? 

HARRY. So ? 

sarah. And also you know what time it opens ? (He grins) So 
why don't you know what time they plan to march? 
(Touchel) 
harry. Leave me alone, Sarah, will you? Two o'clock they 

plan to march — nah ! 
sarah. So you do know. Why didn't you tell me straight 
away ? Shouldn't you tell me something when I ask you ? 
harry. I didn't know what time they marched, so what do you 

want of me? 
sarah. But you did know when I nagged you. 
harry. So I suddenly remembered. Is there anything terrible 
in that? 

(She shakes a disbelieving fist at him and goes out to see 

where the loudspeaker cries are coming from. The slogan 

'Madrid today — London tomorrow' is being repeated. As 

she is out Harry looks for her handbag, and on finding it 

proceeds to take some money from it.) 

sarah (she is hot). Air! I must have air — this basement will 

kill me. God knows what I'll do without air when I'm 

dead. Who else was at Lottie's ? 

12 



CHICKEN SOUP WITH BARLEY 

harry (still preoccupied). All of them. 

sarah. Who's all of them ? 

harry. All of them ! You know. Lottie and Hymie and the 

boys, Solly and Martin. 

(He finds a ten-shilling note, pockets it and resumes his seat by 
the fire , taking up a book to read. Sarah returns to front 
room with some cups and saucers.) 
sarah. Here, lay these out, the boys will be coming soon. 
harry. Good woman ! I could just do with a cup of tea. 
sarah. What's the matter, you didn't have any tea by Lottie's ? 
harry. No. 
sarah. Liar ! 
harry. I didn't have any tea by Lottie's, I tell you. (Injured 

tone) Good God, woman, why don't you believe me when 

I tell you things ? 
sarah. You tell me why. Why don't I believe him when he 

tells me things ! As if he's such an angel and never tells lies. 

What's the matter, you never told lies before I don't think ? 
harry. All right, so I had tea at Lottie's. There, you satisfied 

now? 
sarah (preparing things as she talks). Well, of course you had 

tea at Lottie's. Don't I know you had tea at Lottie's? You 

think I'm going to think that Lottie wouldn't make you a 

cup of tea? 
harry. Oh, leave off, Sarah. 
sarah. No ! This time I won't leave off. (Her logic ogam.) I want 

to know why you told me you didn't have tea at Lottie's 

when you know perfectly well you did. I want to know. 
(Harry raises his hands in despair.) 

I know you had tea there and you know you had tea there 

— so what harm is it if you tell me ? You think I care 

whether you had a cup of tea there or not ? You can drink 

tea there till it comes out of your eyes and I wouldn't care 

only as long as you tell me. 

13 



ACT ONE 

harry. Sarah, will you please stop nagging me, will you? 

What difference if I had tea there or I didn't have tea there ? 

sarah. That's just what I'm saying. All I want to know is 

whether you're all of a liar or half a liar ! 
harry (together with her). ... all of a liar or half a liar ! 

(A young man, Monty Blatt, comes down the stairs. He is 
about 19, Jewish, working-class, and cockney. His voice is 
heard before he is seen, shouting: 'Mrs Kahn! Sarah! Mrs 
Kahn !' He has interrupted the row as he dashes into the room 
without knocking.) 
monty. Ah, good ! You're here ! (Moves to window and, looking 
out, shouts up.) It's O.K. They're here. Here! (Offering 
parcel) Mother sent you over some of her strudel. C'mon 
down. (To Harry) Hello, Harry boy, how you going? All 
fighting fit for the demo ? 
harry. I'm fit, like a Trojan I'm fit ! 
sarah. You won't see him at any demo. In the pictures you'll 

find him. (Goes to landing to make tea.) 
monty. The pictures? Don't be bloody mad. You won't hear 
a thing! You seen the streets today? Sarah, you seen the 
streets yet ? Mobbed ! Mo-obbed ! The lads have been there 
since seven this morning. 

(Two other young men in their early twenties come down the 
stairs, Dave Simmonds and Prince Silver. They are 
heatedly discussing something.) 
prince. But Dave, there's so much work here to do. Hello, 

Sarah ! 
dave. I know all about the work here, but there are plenty of 
party members to do it. Hello, Sarah. Spain is the battle- 
front. Spain is a real issue at last. 
sarah. Spain? Spain, Dave? 
harry. Spain? 

prince. Dave is joining the International Brigade. He's leaving 
for Spain tomorrow morning. (To Dave) But Spain is only 

14 



CHICKEN SOUP WITH BARLEY 

one issue brought to a head. You're too young to . . . 

harry. Dave, don't go mad all of a sudden. It's not all glory, 
you know. 

dave. Harry, you look as though you didn't sleep last night. 

monty. He didn't — the old cossack. (To the tune of 'All the 
nice girls love a sailor) For you know what cossacks are . . . 
Am I right, Harry ? 

prince. I saw your sister Cissie at Aldgate, Harry. She was 
waving your mother's walking-stick in the air. 

harry. She's mad. 

monty (loudly calling). Where's this cup of tea, Sarah? 

sarah [bringing in tea). Do your fly-buttons up, Monty, you 
tramp you. Now then, Dave, tell me what's happening 
and what the plans are. 

(Everyone draws up a chair by the table.) 

dave. It's like this. The Party loudspeaker vans have been out 
all morning — you heard them ? The Fascists are gathering 
at Royal Mint Street near the bridge. They plan to march 
up to Aldgate, down Commercial Road to Salmon Lane 
in Limehouse — you know Salmon Lane ? — where they 
think they're going to hold a meeting. Then they plan to 
go on to Victoria Park and hold another meeting. 

sarah. Two meetings ? What do they want to hold two meet- 
ings for ? 

harry. Why shouldn't they hold two meetings ? 

sarah. What, you think they should hold two meetings? 

harry. It's not what I think — she's such a funny woman — 
it's not what I think, but they want to hold two meetings 
— so what's so strange about that ? 

sarah. But it costs so much money. 

harry. Perhaps you want we should have a collection for 
them? 

dave. Now. They could go along the Highway by the docks 
and then up Cable Street, but Mosley won't take the High- 

15 



ACT ONE 

way because that's the back way, though the police will 
suggest he does. 

sarah. I bet the police cause trouble. 

prince. They've had to call in forces from outside London. 

sarah. You won't make it a real fight, boys, will you ? I mean 
you won't get hurt. 

monty. Sarah, you remember they threw a seven-year- 
old girl through a glass window? So don't fight the 
bastards ? 

prince. Now Monty, there's to be discipline, remember. 
There's to be no attack or bottle-throwing. It's a test, you 
know that, don't you, it's a test for us. We're to stop them 
passing, that's all. 

monty. Sure we'll stop them passing. If I see a blackshirt 
come by I'll tap his shoulder and I'll say : 'Excuse me, but 
you can't come this way today, we're digging up the road.' 
And he'll look at my hammer and sickle and he'll doff his 
cap and he'll say : 'I beg your pardon, comrade, I'll take the 
Underground.' 

dave. Comrades ! You want to know what the plans are or 
you don't want to know ? Again. As we don't know what's 
going to happen we've done this: some of the workers are 
rallying at Royal Mint Street — so if the Fascists want to 
go through the Highway they'll have to fight for it. But we 
guess they'll want to stick to the main route so as not to 
lose face — you follow ? We've therefore called the main 
rally at Gardiner's Corner. If, on the other hand, they do 
attempt to pass up Cable Street — 

sarah. Everything happens in Cable Street. 

harry. What else happened in Cable Street ? 

sarah. Peter the Painter had a fight with Churchill there, 
didn't he ? 

monty. You're thinking of Sidney Street, sweetheart. 

harry. You know, she gets everything mixed up. 

16 



CHICKEN SOUP WITH BARLEY 

sarah. You're very wonderful I suppose, yes? You're the 
clever one ! 

harry. I don't get my facts mixed up, anyway. 

sarah. Per, per, per, per, per ! Listen to him ! My politician ! 

monty. Sarah, do me a favour, leave the fists till later. 

dave. If, on the other hand, they do try to come up Cable 
Street then they'll meet some dockers and more barricades. 
And if any get through that lot then they still can't hold 
their meetings either in Salmon Lane or Victoria Park 
Square. 

sarah. Why not? 

prince. Because since seven this morning there's been some of 
our comrades standing there with our platforms. 

monty. Bloody wonderful, isn't it ? Makes you feel proud, eh 
Sarah ? Every section of this working-class area that we've 
approached has responded. The dockers at Limehouse have 
come out to the man. The lot ! 

prince. The unions, the Co-ops, Labour Party members and 
the Jewish People's Council — 

sarah. The Board of Deputies? 

harry. There she goes again. Not the Jewish Board of De- 
puties — they asked the Jewish population to keep away. 
No, the Jewish People's Council — the one that organized 
that mass demo against Hitler some years back. 
(Sarah pulls face at him.) 

monty. There's been nothing like it since the General Strike. 

harry. Christ ! The General Strike ! That was a time, Sarah, 
eh? 

sarah. What you asking me for ? You want I should remem- 
ber that you were missing for six days when Ada was ill ? 

harry. Yes, I was missing, I'm sure. 

sarah. Well, sure you were missing. 

harry. Where was I missing? 

sarah. How should I know where you were missing. If I'd 

17 



ACT ONE 

have known where you were missing you wouldn't have 

been missing. 

(There is heard from outside a sound of running feet and voices 
shouting. Everyone except Harry moves to the window.) 
first voice. They're assembling ! They're assembling ! Out to 

the barricades — the Fascists are assembling ! 
second voice. Hey, Stan ! Where's the best place ? 
first voice. Take your boys to Cable Street. The Fascists are 

assembling ! Come out of your houses ! Come out of your 

houses ! 
monty. What about us, Dave ? 

sarah. You haven't suggested to Harry and me where to go yet. 
dave. There's plenty of time. They won't try to march till 

two, and it's only twelve thirty. 
sarah. You eaten ? You boys had lunch ? 
prince. We all had lunch at my place, Sarah; sit down, stop 

moving a few seconds. 
dave. Take your pick, Sarah. If you fancy yourself as a nurse 

then go to Aldgate, we've got a first-aid post there, near 

Whitechapel Library. 
sarah. Such organization! And you lot? 
dave. Monty is taking some of the lads to the left flank of 

Cable Street, Prince is organizing a team of cyclist messen- 
gers between the main points and headquarters, I'm going 

round the streets at the last minute to call everyone out and 

— and that's the lot. 
monty (rubbing his hands). All we have to do is wait. 
dave. Where is Ada? 
sarah. Ada and Ronnie are at Hymie's place. I thought it best 

they get right out of the way. 
dave (guiltily). You think she'll stay away? Your precocious 

daughter is a born fighter, Sarah. 
monty. 'Course she is ! She'll be round the streets organizing 

the pioneers — you see. 

18 



CHICKEN SOUP WITH BARLEY 

sarah. Never ! I told her to stay there and she'll stay there. 

harry. I'm sure ! 

sarah. God forbid she should be like you and run wild. 

harry. All right, so she should be like you then ! 

sarah. I'm jolly sure she should be like me ! Ronnie isn't 
enough for him yet. A boy of five running about at nights 
and swearing at his aunts. (Smiles at thought.) Bless him ! (To 
the others) He didn't half upset them: the} wouldn't let him 
mess around with the radio so he started effing and blinding 
and threw their books on the floor. (Turning again to 
Harry) Like you he throws things. 

harry. Have you ever come across a woman like her before ? 

monty. I'd love another cup of tea. 

harry (jumps up and goes to kitchen). I'll make it. I'll make it. 

sarah. He's so sweet when anybody else is around. I'll make 
some sandwiches. 

prince. But we've eaten, Sarah. 

sarah. Eat. Always eat. You don't know what time you'll be 
back. 

(Sarah goes to cupboard and cuts up bread ready for cheese 
sandwiches. A very distant sound of people chanting is heard: 
'They shall not pass, they shall not pass, they shall not 
pass.') 

monty. The boys! Listen. Hear them? You know, Sarah, 
that's the same cry the people of Madrid were shouting. 

prince. And they didn't get past either. Imagine it ! All those 
women and children coming out into the streets and mak- 
ing barricades with their beds and their chairs. 

dave (sadly). It was a slaughter. 

prince. And then came the first International Brigade. 

dave. The Edgar Andre from Germany, Commune de Paris 
from France, and the Dombrovsky from Poland. 

monty. Wait till our Dave gets over there. You'll give 'em 
brass balls for breakfast, Dave, eh ? 

19 



ACT ONE 

sarah. You really going, Dave ? Does Ada know ? 

dave. Don't tell her, Sarah. You know how dramatic calf- 
love is. 

prince. Calf-love ? If you get back alive from Spain she'll 
marry you at the landing stage — mark me. 

sarah. How are you going ? 

dave. They tell me it's a week-end trip to Paris and then a 
midnight ramble over the Pyrenees. The back way ! 

sarah. It's terrible out there, they say. They say we've lost a 
lot of good comrades already. 

prince. We've lost too many good comrades out there — you 
hear me, Dave ? 

monty. Sammy Avner and Lorimer Birch at Boadilla, 
Felicia Brown and Ernst Julius at Aragon. 

sarah. Julius? The tailor who used to work with us at 
Cantor's ? But he was only a young boy. 

prince. And Felicia an artist and Lorimer an Oxford under- 
graduate. 

monty. And Cornford was killed at Cordova. 

prince. And Ronnie Symes at Madrid. 

monty. And Stevie Yates at Casa del Campo. 

sarah. Casa del Campo ! Madrid ! Such beautiful names and 
all that killing. 
(Pause.) 

monty. Hey! You know who organized the first British 
group ? Nat Cohen ! I used to go to school with him. Him 
and Sam Masters were on a cycling holiday in France. As 
soon as they heard of the revolt they cycled over to 
Barcelona and started the Tom Mann Centuria. 

harry (coming to the door). He's a real madman, Nat Cohen. 
He chalks slogans right outside the police station. I used to 
work with him. 

sarah. God knows if they'll come back alive. 

dave. When three Fascist deserters were asked how they 

20 



CHICKEN SOUP WITH BARLEY 

reached our lines they said, they came through the hills of 
the widows, orphans and sweethearts ; they'd lost so many 
men attacking those hills. 

monty. And may they lose many more ! 

dave (angrily). The war in Spain is not a game of cards, 
Monty. You don't pay in pennies when you lose. May 
they lose many more ! What kind of talk is that ? Some- 
times, Monty, I think you only enjoy the battle, and that 
one day you'll forget the ideal. You hate too much. You 
can't have brotherhood when you hate. There's only one 
difference between them and us — we know what we're 
fighting for. It's almost an unfair battle. 
(Harry now returns to kitchen to pour out tea.) 

monty. Unfair, he says! When Germany and Italy are 
supplying them with guns and tanks and aeroplanes and 
our boys have only got rifles and mortars — is that unfair ? 
You call that unfair, I don't think ? 

dave. When you fight men who are blind it's always unfair. 
You think I'm going to enjoy shooting a man because he 
calls himself a Fascist? I feel so sick at the thought of 
firing a rifle that I think I'll board that boat with a blind- 
fold over my eyes. Sometimes I think that's the only way 
to do things. I'm not even sure that I want to go, only I 
know if I don't then — then — well, what sense can a man 
make of his life? 

sarah. You're really a pacifist, aren't you, Dave ? 

dave. I'm a terribly sad pacifist, Sarah. 

harry. I understand you, Dave — I know what you mean, 
boy. What do you want we should say ? You go — we're 
proud of you. You stay behind — we love you. Some- 
times you live in a way you don't know why — you just 
do a thing. So you don't have to shout — you're shouting 
at yourself! But a pacifist, Dave ? There's going to be a big 
war soon, a Fascist war : you think it's time for pacifism ? 

21 



ACT ONE 

sarah. He's right, Dave. 

dave. I know it's not time yet. I know that. I know there is 
still some fighting to be done. But it'll come. It will come, 
you know — when there'll be a sort of long pause, and. 
people will just be frightened of each other and still think 
they have to fight. That'll be the time — But now — well, I 
feel like an old gardener who knows he won't live through 
to the spring to plant his seeds. 

(Harry comes in with the teas and at the same time a voice 
from the streets is heard frantically shouting: 'Man your 
posts ! Men and women of the East End, come out of 
your houses ! The blackshirts are marching ! Come out ! 
Come out !' There is a hurried movement from the people in 
the room. Dave and Monty rush to the window. Prince 
rushes upstairs, knocking a cup of tea out of Harry's hand.) 
monty. Christ ! They've started before time. 
dave. It might be a false alarm. 

prince [from the stairs). We can't take the risk. Let's get going. 
(Monty moves off quickly, taking a poker from the fireplace 
on his way out and concealing it in his clothes) 
monty. I'll clean it and bring it back later. 
harry. But I've made your tea. 

dave. Stick it back in the pot. We'll drink it later. Now you 
two, you know where the posts are — Cable Street, 
Royal Mint Street and Gardiner's Corner. 
harry (at the window). The street is mobbed. Jesus! Look at 

them, everybody is coming out, everybody. 
sarah (putting on her coat in general rush). Where's the first-aid 

post? 
dave (having helped Sarah with coat, moves off). Whitechapel 

Library. Harry, you coming ? 
harry (still at window). I'm coming, I'm coming. You go on. 
Good God, there's Alf Bosky and his wife. She's got the 
baby with her. (Shouts up.) Hey Alf — good luck, com- 

22 



CHICKEN SOUP WITH BARLEY 

rade — we're coming. Sarah, there's Alf Bosky and. his 
wife. 
sarah (looking for something in kitchen). I heard, I heard! (She 
finds a rolling pin and, waving it in the air, dashes into the 
front room.) Are you coming now, Harry? I'm going to 
Gardiner's Corner — come on, we'll be late. 
harry (hacking away from rolling pin). Don't hit anybody with 

that thing, Sarah, it hurts. 
sarah. Fool! 

(Sarah dashes to the stairs hut stops and, remembering 
something, returns to front room. From a corner of the room 
she finds a red flag with a hammer and sickle on it and 
thrusts it in Harry's hand.) 
sarah. Here, wave this ! Do something useful ! 

(Exits upstairs.) 
harry (grabbing his coat). Hey, Sarah, wait for me — Sarah! 
Hey, wait for me ! 

(He follows her, banner streaming. The voices outside grow to 
a crescendo: 'They shall not pass, they shall not pass, 
they shall not pass!') 

CURTAIN 



Scene 2 

Same room, later that evening. There is commotion and some 
singing from the streets outside. Monty and Prince are coming 
down the stairs leading Hymie Kossof. He has blood all over his 
face. He is a short, rotund man with a homely appearance. 

monty {leaving Prince and Hymie to go into the room). I'll get 
some water on the stove. Sit him in a chair. (Shouts 
upstairs.) Cissie ! Don't come down yet, go and get some 
first-aid kit from somewhere. (Fills kettle.) 

23 



ACT ONE 

prince. Now don't talk too much and. don't move, Hymie. 

Jesus ! What a state you're in. Sarah'U go mad. 
hymie. Well, clean me up quickly then. 
monty (rushing from kitchen to window). Cissie! Cissiel Try that 

sweet shop near Toynbee Hall. I saw a first-aid group 

there. They might still be there. (Comes away, but, re- 
membering something else, sticks his head out again.) Aspros! 

Try and get hold of some Aspros. 
sarah (from the top of the stairs — off). Monty ! Is Hymie down 

there ? 
hymie. Oh, my goodness, she's here. If there is one thing 

Sarah loves it's someone who's ill to fuss over. Why didn't 

I go home ? 
monty. Because you know Lottie would say serves you right ! 
(Sarah appears; Monty rushes to her.) 

Now don't panic, Sarah, he's all right, he's all right. 
sarah (entering). Hymie ! 
hymie. Sarah Nightingale ! 
monty. Now don't frighten him, I tell you. 
sarah (taking over towel and wiping him). Fool you ! They told 

me you were hurt — I nearly died. 
hymie. So did I ! 

sarah. Fool ! You had to go straight into it. 
hymie. I was only hit by a truncheon. Now do me a favour, 

Sarah, and just make some tea, there's a good girl. 
sarah. Nobody else got hurt. Only him. The brave one ! 
monty (significantly handling the poker). Plenty got hurt! Oh, 

he's all right. Aren't you all right, Hymie? 
hymie. I'm here, aren't I? 
sarah (taking off her coat). Well, why hasn't anybody done 

something ? 
prince. Cissie has gone to get some first aid. 
sarah. Cissie ? Harry's sister ? 
prince, Yes. Where is Harry, by the way ? Anybody seen him ? 

24 



CHICKEN SOUP WITH BARLEY 

sarah (ominously). Wait till I see him. I'll give him. You 
expected, him to stay there ? 

monty. I saw him at Cable Street ; he was waving the old red 
flag, but he didn't stay long. He took one look at the 
artillery and guns and said he was going to find us some 
sandwiches. 

sarah. They had guns at Cable Street ? Did they use them ? 

monty. Nah! it was only brought out to frighten us. 
Frighten us, mark. If they'd have dropped a bomb 
today we wouldn't have been frightened. Christ ! What a 
day! 

hymie. I mean, did you ever see anything like it ? We threw 
stones and bottles at them, Sarah. They were on horseback 
with batons and they kept charging us, so we threw stones. 
And you should have seen Monty when one policeman 
surrendered. Surrendered! A policeman! It's never hap- 
pened before. He didn't know what to do, Monty didn't. 
None of us knew. I mean, who's ever heard of policemen 
surrendering ? And after the first came others — half a 
dozen of them. My goodness, we made such a fuss of them. 
Gave them cigarettes and mugs of tea and called them 
comrade policemen. 

prince. There's no turning back now — nothing can stop the 
workers now. 

monty. I bet we have a revolution soon. Hitler won't stop at 
Spain, you know. You watch him go and you watch the 
British Government lick his arse until he spits in their eye. 
Then well move in. 

hymie. I'm not so sure, Monty. We won today but the same 
taste doesn't stay long. Mosley was turned back at Aldgate 
pump and everyone shouted hurrah. But I wonder how 
many of the people at Gardiner's Corner were just sight- 
seers. You know, in every political movement there are 
just sightseers. 

25 



ACT ONE 

monty. Ten thousand bloody sightseers ? Do me a favour, it 
wasn't a bank holiday. 

(Sarah goes to kitchen to pour the water into the bowl. 
Cissie appears.) 
hymie. Any big excitement can be a bank holiday for a 
worker, believe me. 
(Enter Cissie. Woman of about 3 3 . She is a trade-union 
organizer — precise in her manner, dry sense of humour.) 
cissie. Ointment, lint, bandage and plaster. Let's have a look 

at him. 
sarah (entering with bowl of water). I'm coming, it's all right, 
I can manage. 

(Cissie makes way and Sarah begins to sponge her brother's 
face and then puts bandage round his head.) 
prince. Where were you, Cis ? 

cissie. Gardiner's Corner holding a banner. The union ban- 
ner. And you ? 
monty. Digging up the paving stones in Cable Street. 
cissie. Paving stones ? (She hoists the back of her skirt to warm her 

behind in front oj the fire.) 
monty. We pulled out the railings from a near-by church and 
the stones from the gutter. I'll get some more coal for the 
fire. (Goes to kitchen, pinching Cissie's behind on the way.) We 
turned over a lorry. 
sarah. A lorry? 

hymie. But it was the wrong one. The lorry we'd laid on was 
in a near-by yard and when the call went up to bring the 
lorry the boys, if you don't mind, grabbed one at the top 
of the street. I ask you ! 
sarah. Keep still. There, you look more respectable now. 

(Monty re-enters with coal and on his way to fire takes a 
feather from a hat near by and plants it among Hymie' s 
bandages.) 
hymie. Anyone get hurt your way, Cissie ? 

26 



CHICKEN SOUP WITH BARLEY 

cissie. Some of the boys from my union got arrested. 

sarah. I'll go and make some tea now. 

cissie. Mick and Sammy and Dave Goldman — and that 
bloody fool, if you'll excuse the expression, Sonny Becks. 
Everybody is standing behind the barricades waiting for 
the blackshirts to appear. The place is swarming with 
policemen waiting, just waiting, for an opportunity to lay 
their hands on some of us. So look what he does: not con- 
tent with just standing there — and Sonny knew perfectly 
well that the orders were for the strictest discipline — not 
content with just standing he chose that moment to get up 
on Mrs O'Laoghaire's vegetable barrow and make a politi- 
cal speech. 'Let us now remember the lessons of the Russian 
revolution,' he starts like he was quoting Genesis, the nitwit. 
And then he finds that the barrow isn't safe so he steps 
over to an iron bedstead and put his foot through the 
springs just as he was quoting Lenin's letter to the toiling 
masses ! 

monty. You can never stop Sonny making a speech. 

cissie. But not in bed ! Anyway, you know Sonny — a mouth 
like a cesspool and no shame — so he lets out a torrent of 
abuse at the capitalist bed-makers and the police just make 
a dive at him. Mick and Sammy tried to argue with the 
police so they were hauled off and then Dave Goldman 
tried to explain — that was when he was hauled off, poor 
bastard, if you'll excuse the expression ! 

hymie. What'll happen ? 

cissie. The union'll have to find the lawyers and probably pay 
their fine — what else ? Which reminds me — Monty and 
Prince. Get all the boys and girls you can find and bring 
them to that social next Saturday, the one for Sally Oaks. 

hymie. Wasn't it her husband caught his bicycle in a tram-line 
and was killed? 

cissie. That's right. She's a Catholic. The local priest is trying 

27 



ACT ONE 

to raise some money to keep her going for a bit and we 
promised we'd support it. Well, I'm going. 

sarah (entering with tea). Cissie, have you seen Harry? 

cissie. Harry? No! 

sarah. He's not at your place, I suppose? 

cissie. How should I know ? I haven't been there all day. 

sarah. He always is at your place. 

cissie. Sarah, I'm not responsible for my brother's actions. 
None of us have ever been able to control him, the eldest 
brother ! We warned you what you were taking on — you 
wanted to change him ! She wanted to change him. 

sarah. It's your mother who spoils him, you know that ? 

cissie. Spoils him ! Do me a favour — the woman's been bed- 
ridden for the last ten years. Spoils him ! 

sarah. He knows he can go to her — she'll feed him. 

cissie. He's her son, for God's sake. 

sarah. Don't I know it. He's her son all right — and he wants 
to be looked after like everyone looks after her. Only it's 
such a pity — he can walk ! 

cissie. Yes, yes — so I know all this already. Good night, 
everyone. 

(Cissie exits amid varied goodbyes and Til be seeing you'.) 

sarah. I hate her ! 

hymie. Don't be a silly girl. Cissie is a good trade-union 
organizer. 

sarah. She's a cow ! Not a bit of warmth, not a bit ! What's 
the good of being a socialist if you're not warm. 

hymie. But Cissie has never liked Harry. 

sarah. Not a bit of warmth. Everything cold and calculated. 
People like that can't teach love and brotherhood. 

prince. Love comes later, Sarah. 

sarah. Love comes now. You have to start with love. How 
can you talk about socialism otherwise ? 

monty. Hear, hear, Comrade Kahn. Come on now, what is 

28 



CHICKEN SOUP WITH BARLEY 

this? We've just won one of the biggest fights in working- 
class history and. all we do is quarrel. 
(Monty settles down and all is quiet. Suddenly, softly, he 
starts to sing.) 

England arise, the long long night is over. 
(Others join in.) 

Faint in the East behold the dawn appears. 
Out of your evil sleep of toil and sorrow, 
England arise, the long long day is here. 

England arise . . . 

sarah (suddenly). Hymie! The children! God in heaven, I've 

forgotten the children. 
hymie. They're at my place. What's the matter with you ? 
sarah (putting on her coat). But I can't leave them there. How 

could I forget them like that; what am I thinking of? 

Won't be long. 
(Exits.) 
hymie (calling up to her). But Ronnie'll be asleep. Don't tell 

Lottie I got hit. Tell her I'm coming home soon. (Returning 

to front room) Impetuous woman! 
(They all settle themselves comfortably round the fire. Sarah 
is heard calling from the street.) 
sarah (off). Make yourself some food! And there's tea in the 

pot. 
hymie (coming away from window). Make yourself some food! 

With her it's food all the time. Food and tea. No sooner 

you finished one cup than you got another. 
monty. She's a sweetheart. 
hymie. God forbid you should ever say you're not hungry. 

She starts singing that song: As man is only human he 

must eat before he can think. 
monty (picking up the song and singing it). 
As man is only human 

29 



ACT ONE 

He must eat before he can think, 
Fine words are only empty air 
But not his meat or his drink. 
(Others join in chorus.) 

Then left right left, then left right left, 
There's a place, comrade, for you. 
March with us in the ranks of the working class 
For you are a worker too. 
(Harry enters. As they finish the song he stands in the door- 
way and, waving the banner, cries) 
harry. We won ! Boys, we won the day ! 
monty. Harry ! Welcome home the hero ! Where are those 

bloody sandwiches ? 
hymie. Your wife's looking for you. 
harry. What, she's gone out for me? (Places banner in corner 

and looks concerned.) 
monty. Yes ! Just this minute. 
harry. Did she have a rolling pin in her hand ? 
hymie. No, no. She's gone to my place to collect the children. 
harry. Blimey, Hymie! What happened to you? You all 

right, Hymie? 
hymie. Now don't you fuss, Harry; drink your tea. 
monty. That's it, Harry, swill up, mate. 
harry. Sure, sure. (Goes to kitchen.) The children, you say? 

But I saw Ada in the streets. 
prince (looking to Monty). She was helping me, Harry, but 
don't tell Sarah. She was taking messages from Cable Street 
to headquarters. I knew she wouldn't stay in on such a day. 
Marched with us on the victory march, then went to look 
for Dave. 
monty. She'll break her little heart when she hears he's going 
to Spain. 

(Ada comes tearing down the stairs at this point — she is the 
Kahns daughter, aged 14.) 

30 



CHICKEN SOUP WITH BARLEY 

ada. Mother! Mother! Hello everyone — Dad, where's 
Mother? (She snatches a slice of bread and butter from table.) 

harry. Hello, Ada — you haven't seen her yet ? You'll cop it. 
She's gone to look for Ronnie. 

ada. (going off again). Be back in quarter of an hour — excuse 
me. 

harry. Where you going now ? 

ada. Must check up on the last few posts, see that all the other 
pioneers are safe. (She calls back through the window.) Christ, 
what a day, comrades ! (Exits.) 

harry. Comrades! And we didn't force her to be in the 
pioneers. Wasn't necessary. I tell you, show a young 
person what socialism means and he recognizes life! A 
future! But it won't be pure in our lifetime, you know 
that, don't you, boys ? Not even in hers, maybe — but in 
her children's lifetime — then they'll begin to feel it, all the 
benefits, despite our mistakes — you'll see, despite our 
mistakes. Now boys, tell me everything that happened. 

prince. Don't you know? Sir Philip Game, the police com- 
missioner, got the wind up and banned the march. He told 
Mosley to fight it out with the Home Secretary. He wasn't 
going to have any trouble. And what happened to you ? 

harry (proudly). I was nearly arrested. 

monty. You? 

harry. I was running through the streets waving a red banner 
Sarah gave me and a policeman told me to drop it. 

prince. So? 

harry. I dropped it ! And then I turned into Flower and Dean 
Street and raised it again. He must have guessed what I was 
going to do. Christ ! I never saw so many policemen appear 
so quickly. They seemed to pour out of all the windows 
when they heard that penny-farthing whistle. I only just 
had time to hop into my mother's place. 

monty. And you stayed there ? 

31 



ACT ONE 

harry. I had a cup of tea and at about four o'clock I came out. 
I got to Gardiner's Corner and police were charging the 
barricades. I didn't see no Fascists. Any get there? 
prince. They stayed in the back streets. The police did all the 

attacking. So? 
harry. So I saw the police were picking our boys off like flies 
and then I saw my policeman — his hat was missing by this 
time. Oooh ! There was a vicious look came into his eye 
when he saw me. I didn't stop to ask him where he'd lost it. 
I just ran back to my mother's and read a book. 
hymie (ominously). So you were at your mother's. (To the 
others) I think we'd better go before Sarah comes back. 
Harry, we're going. 
harry. You're not staying for something to eat ? 
hymie. Lottie's waiting for me, Harry. Come on, you two. 
harry. Hey, Hymie. You won't tell her I was at my mother's 
all the time, will you ? No ? 

(The boys assure him with pats and shakes of the head. 
Harry pours himself out a cup of tea and, taking it into the 
front room, he settles down to a book by the fire. After some 
seconds Sarah comes down the stairs with Ronnie, a boy of 
about five. He is asleep in her arms. She takes him straight 
into the bedroom. Harry tries to appear very absorbed. 
Sarah comes out of the room, takes off her coat and hangs it 
up. She is eyeing Harry most of the time with agaze to kill 
while he does his best to avoid it. She clears a few things from 
the table, then goes out to get herself a cup of tea. As she 
watches Harry she seats herself at the table and slowly stirs 
her drink. He shrinks under her gaze as her head begins to 
nod. It is an ' T-know-you-don W nod.) 
Sarah. You think I'm a fool, don't you? 

(Harry shifts uncomfortably, doesnt answer. Sarah watches 
him.) 
Think I can't see, that I don't know what's going on. 

32 



CHICKEN SOUP WITH BARLEY 

(Pause.) Look at him ! The man of the house ! Nothing 
matters to him ! (Pause.) Well, Harry, why don't you look 
at me? Why don't you talk to me? I'm your wife, aren't I ? 
A man is supposed to discuss things with his wife. 

harry (at last). What do you want me to say? 

sarah. Must I tell you what to say? Don't you know? Don't 
you just know! (Pause.) Artful! Oh, you're so artful! 

harry. Yes, yes. I'm artful. 

sarah. Aren't you artful, then? You think because you sit 
there pretending to read that I won't say anything ? That's 
what you'd like — that I should just come in and carry on 
and not say anything. You'd like that, wouldn't you ? That 
you should carry on your life just the same as always and 
no one should say anything. 

harry. Oh, leave me alone, Sarah. 

sarah. Oh, leave me alone, Sarah! I'll leave you alone all 
right. There'll be blue murder, Harry, you hear me? 
There'll be blue murder if it carries on like tins. All our life 
is it going to be like this ? I can't leave a handbag in the 
room. You remember what happened last time ? You left 
me ! Remember ? 
(Harry tries to turn away out of it all and Sarah shakes him 
back again) 
Remember? And you wanted to come back? And you 
came back — full of promises. What's happened to them 
now? 

harry. Nothing's happened ! Now stop nagging ! Good God, 
you don't let a man live in peace. 

sarah. You can still pretend? After you took ten shillings 
from my bag and you know that I know you took it and 
you can still be righteous ? Say you don't know anything 
about it, go on. Say you don't know what I'm talking 
about. 

harry: No. I dont know what you're taking about. 

33 



ACT ONE 

SARAu(jinally unable to control herself, cursing him). Fire on your 

head! May you live so sure if you don't know what I'm 

talking about. The money fell out of my purse, I suppose. 

I dropped it in the street. (Screaming at him) Fire on your 

head! 
harry (rising and facing her in a rage). I'll throw this book at 

you — so help me I'll throw this book at yon. 
(At this point Ada rushes in.) 
ada. Harry, stop it. (She cries.) Oh, stop it ! 
harry (shouting). Tell your mother to stop it, she's the cause, 

it's her row. Don't you know your mother by now? (He 

has moved away to the door.) 
sarah. I'm the cause ? Me ? You hear him, Ada, you hear him ? 

I'm the cause ! ( Throws a saucer at him.) Swine, you ! 
harry (in speechless rage, throws his book to the ground). She's 

mad, your mother, she's stark raving mad ! 
(Harry rushes out of the room up the stairs. Sarah follows 

him to bottom of stairs and, picking up a basin in her hands, 

brandishes it. Ada goes to look out of the window.) 
sarah. That's it, run away. Go to your mother ! She'll give 

you peace ! She'll do everything for you ! Weakling, you ! 

Weakling! 
ada (crying). Everybody's outside, Mummy. Everybody is 

looking down at us. 
sarah (turning to comfort her). There, there, Boobola. There, 

there, meine kindt. Shuh ! Shuh ! I'm sorry. (Bends over her 

and strokes her.) Shuh ! Shuh ! It's finished, I'm sorry, it's over. 
harry (from the street). She's mad, she's gone mad, she has. 
sarah. Shuh! shuh! Ada, don't listen. It'll pass. Shuh — 

shuh ! (Cooing) loolinka, Ada, Ada, Ada. 
(As she comforts Ada, Ronnie comes out and stands watching 
them — listening and bewildered ...) 

CURTAIN 

34 



ACT TWO 

Scene I 

June 1946 — the war has come and gone. 

The scene is now changed. The Kahns have moved to an L.C.C. 
block of flats in Hackney — the 1930 kind, with railings. The 
working class is a little more respectable now, they have not long 
since voted in a Labour Government. The part of the flat we can see 
is: the front room, from which lead off three rooms; the passage to 
the front door — and a door leading from the passage to the kitchen 
{off); and part of the balcony with its iron railings. 

It is late on a Friday afternoon. Harry is lying down on the 
sofa. Sarah walks along the balcony, puts her hand through the letter 
box, withdraws the key, and enters the front room — energetic as 
ever. 

sarah. What! you here already? [Accepting the fact) You 
haven't been working ! 

harry. The place closed down. 

sarah (takes off coat and unpacks shopping bag). The place closed 
down ! But you only started there on Monday. 

harry. Well ! So the place closed down ! Is it my fault ? 

sarah. It always happens where he works. You can't bring 
luck anywhere, can you ! When it's a slump you always 
manage to be the first one sacked and when the season 
starts again you're the last one to find work. Ah, Harry, 
you couldn't even make money during the war. The war ! 
When everybody made money. 

harry (laying pay packet on table). Nah! 

sarah (reading it). What's this? Seven pounds thirteen? Why 
only seven pounds thirteen ? 

harry. Four days' work. 

sarah. You haven't worked all day today? So what you been 
doing ? 

35 



ACT TWO 

harry. I felt tired. 

sarah. Sleep ! That's all he can do. You didn't peel potatoes or 

anything ? (No answer.) Oh, what am I standing here talking 

to you for? Don't I know you by now? 
harry. I got a headache. 

sarah (going to kitchen and talking from there). Yes, yes — head- 
ache ! Ronnie not home yet ? 
harry. He's distributing leaflets. 
sarah. What leaflets ? 

harry. I don't know what leaflets. What leaflets ! Leaflets ! 
sarah. Come and make some tea. Ada will be here soon. 
harry. Leave me alone, Sarah. 
sarah (from the kitchen). Make some tea when I ask you ! 

(Harry rises, and Ada is seen coming along the balcony. She 
enters through the front door in the same manner as Sarah. 
She is 25 years of age, well-spoken, a beautiful Jewess and 
weary of spirit) 
harry (kissing her). Hello, Ada. 
sarah. Ada ? Ada ? You here ? Go inside, Daddy'll make some 

tea. Supper will soon be ready. (Appears cheerfully from 

kitchen with all the signs of a cook about her. Kisses Ada.) Got 

a nice supper. 
ada. What nice supper ? 
sarah. Barley soup. I left it on a small light all day while I was 

at work. (Returns to kitchen.) 
ada. Do you know if Ronnie has gone to my place to see if 

there is mail from Dave ? 
sarah. Suppose so. He usually does when he knows you're 

coming here straight from work. 

(Ronnie appears on the balcony and lets himself in. Aged 15, 
enthusiastic, lively, well-spoken like his sister.) 

(Hearing the noise at the door) Ronnie ? 
ronnie. I'm here. 
sarah. He's here. 

36 



CHICKEN SOUP WITH BARLEY 

ronnie (to Ada as he enters). Two hundred and fifty leaflets in 
an hour and a half! 

ada. Very good. What for ? 

ronnie. The May Day demo. Are you coming? 

ada. I doubt it. 

ronnie (mocking her). I doubt it! Don't you find the march 
exciting any longer ? 

ada. I do not find the march exciting any longer. 

ronnie. Can't understand it. You and Dave were such pio- 
neers in the early days. I get all my ideas from you two — 
and now — 

ada. And now the letters, please. 

ronnie. Letters ? Letters ? What letters ? 

ada. Oh, come on, Ronnie — Dave's letters. 

ronnie (innocently). But I've been distributing leaflets ! 

ADA. You didn't go to my home to find . . . ? 

ronnie. Miles away — other direction. 

ada (sourly). Thank you. 

(While Ada sits down to read a newspaper Ronnie with- 
draws three letters from his pocket and reads some initials on 
the back.) 

ronnie. I.L.T. Now what could that mean — I love thee ? 

ada. Give me those letters, please. 

ronnie (teasing). Oh, I love thee, sister. 

ada. You've been reading them. 

ronnie (reading front of envelope) . Letter number 218 — Christ ! 
he's prolific. And here's number 215 — lousy service, isn't 
it? And number 219. This one says I.L.T.T., I love thee 
terribly, I suppose. And if I loved you I'd also love you 
terribly. (Bends over and kisses her.) 

ada. Idiot ! (Reads.) 

ronnie. Isn't it time that husband of yours was demobbed ? 
The war's been over a year already. Imagine ! I was only 
nine when he left. I've still kept all his letters, Ada, all of 

37 



ACT TWO 

them. (Ambles round the room to wall and tears off a little 
piece of wallpaper which he hurriedly crumples and stuffs into his 
pocket, making sure no one has seen him) We've been living 
here for five years — he hasn't even seen this place, God help 
him ! (Shouting to kitchen) Harry ! Harry ! Where's Harry ? 
(Harry comes in with some tea and Ronnie goes to take a 
cup) 
Good old Pops. Dad, I saw Monty Blatt. He says you must 
attend the meeting tonight. 
harry. Ach! Do me a favour! 

ronnie. Listen to him ! Party member ! Won't attend branch 
meetings! How can you know what's going on in the 
world ? That's where Ada gets her apathy from. She's you ! 
And you're a lazy old sod — whoopee ! 
(Ronnie hoists Harry over his shoulder, fireman fashion, 
and dances round the room) 
ronnie. Are you going to the meeting ? 
harry. Let me down, you fool ! Let me down ! 
ronnie. The meeting ? 

harry. Stop it, you idiot — I've got a headache. 
ada. Do be quiet, you two. 

ronnie (lowering his father). I'll fight you. Come on, fists up, 
show your mettle; I just feel in the mood. (Assumes quixotic 
boxing stance) 
harry (grinning). Bloody fool ! Leave off! 
ronnie. Windy ! (Playfully jabs Harry.) 
harry (raising his fists). I'll knock your block off. 

(They follow each other round — fists raised. First Ronnie 
moves forward, then he backs away and Harry moves for- 
ward. Thus they move — to andjro, without touching each 
other, until Sarah comes in with some soup in plates) 
sarah. The table ! the table ! Lay the table someone. 
ronnie. The table, the table — oh, oh, the table ! 

(Everyone moves to lay the table; Ronnie in haste, Ada 

38 



CHICKEN SOUP WITH BARLEY 

while reading, and Harry clumsily. Then they all sit down.) 
ada. Lovely soup, Mummy. 
ronnie. Magnificent! 
Sarah. You like it? 
harry. They just said they did. 
sarah. I wasn't talking to you. 
ronnie. She wasn't talking to you. 
harry. Your mother never talks to me. 
ronnie. You're so ugly, that's why. I wouldn't talk to you 

either only you wouldn't give me any spending money. 
sarah. He won't give you any spending money this week 

anyway. 
ronnie. Don't tell me. He's out of work. 
harry [pathetically). The shop closed down. 
ADA. Oh, Daddy, why does it always happen to you ? 
harry. It doesn't always happen to me. 
ada. Always ! All my life that's all I can remember, just one 

succession of jobs which have fallen through. 
harry. Is it my fault if the garment industry is so unstable ? 
ada. It's not the industry — it's you. 
harry. Yes, me. 
ada. Well, isn't it you ? 
harry. Oh, Ada, leave off. I have enough with your mother. 

I've got a headache. 
ada. I don't wonder you have a headache, you spend most of 

your time sleeping. 
harry. Yes, sleeping. 
ADA. What are you going to do now ? 
harry. I'll look for another job on Monday. 
ADA. What's wrong with Sunday — on the Whitechapel 

Road ? There's always governors looking for machinists. 
harry. Those people aren't there for work. They go to gos- 
sip. Gossip, that's all ! Monday I'll find a job and start 

straight away. It's busy now, you know. 

39 



ACT TWO 

sarah (collecting the soup dishes and taking them out). Morgen 
morgen nor nischt heite, sagen alle faule leite. 

ada. Daddy — you are the world's biggest procrastinator. 

ronnie. Give the boy a break, Addy, that's a big word. 

ada. He ought to be ashamed of himself. The industry's 
booming with work and he's out of a job. You probably 
got the sack, didn't you? 

harry (offended). I did not get the sack. 

ada. All her life Mummy's had to put up with this. I shall be 
glad to get away. 

(Sarah, entering with the next course, hears this remark and 
glares bitterly at Harry.) 

ronnie. Get away where ? 

ada. Anywhere. When Dave comes back we shall leave 
London and live in the country. That'll be our socialism. 
Remember this, Ronnie : the family should be a unit, and 
your work and your life should be part of one existence, 
not something hacked about by a bus queue and office 
hours. A man should see, know, and love his job. Don't 
you want to feel your life? Savour it gently? In the 
country we shall be somewhere where the air doesn't smell 
of bricks and the kids can grow up without seeing grand- 
parents who are continually shouting at each other. 

sarah. Ada, Ada. 

ronnie. And no more political activity ? 

ada. No more political activity. 

ronnie. I bet Dave won't agree to that. Dave fought in Spain. 
He won't desert humanity like that. 

ada. Humanity ! Ach ! 

ronnie. Listen to her ! With a Labour majority in the House? 
And two of our own Party members? It's only just 
beginning. 

ada. It's always only just beginning for the Party. Every defeat 
is victory and every victory is the beginning. 

40 



CHICKEN SOUP WITH BARLEY 

ronnie. But it is, it is the beginning. Plans for town and 
country planning. New cities and schools and hospitals. 
(Jumping up on chair to Harry's facetious applause.) 
Nationalization ! National health ! Think of it, the whole 
country is going to be organized to co-operate instead of 
tear at each other's throat. That's what I said to them in 
a public speech at school and all the boys cheered and 
whistled and stamped their feet — and blew raspberries. 

ada. I do not believe in the right to organize people. And 
anyway I'm not so sure that I love them enough to want 
to organize them. 

sarah (sadly). This — from you, Ada? You used to be such an 
organizer. 

ada. I'm tired, Mother. I spent eighteen months waiting for 
Dave to return from Spain and now I've waited six years 
for him to come home from a war against Fascism and I'm 
tired. Six years in and out of offices, auditing books and 
working with young girls who are morons — lipsticked, 
giggling morons. And Dave's experience is the same — 
fighting with men who he says did not know what the 
war was about. Away from their wives they behaved like 
animals. In fact they wanted to get away from their wives 
in order to behave like animals. Give them another war 
and they'd run back again. Oh yes ! the service killed any 
illusions Dave may have once had about the splendid and 
heroic working class. 

harry (pedantically). This is the talk of an intellectual, Ada. 

ada. God in heaven save me from the claptrap of a three- 
penny pamphlet. How many friends has the Party lost 
because of lousy, meaningless titles they gave to people. 
He was a bourgeois intellectual, he was a Trotskyist, he was 
a reactionary Social Democrat. Whisht ! Gone ! 

harry. But wasn't it true? Didn't these people help to bolster 
a rotten society? 

41 



ACT TWO 

ADA. The only rotten society is an industrial society. It makes 
a man stand, on Ins head and then convinces him he is 
good-looking. I'll tell you something. It wasn't the 
Trotskyist or the Social Democrat who did the damage. It 
was progress ! There ! Progress ! And nobody dared fight 
progress. 

sarah. But that's no reason to run away. Life still carries on. 
A man gets married, doesn't he? He still has children, he 
laughs, he finds things to make him laugh. A man can 
always laugh, can't he ? 

ada. As if that meant he lived? Even a flower can grow in the 
jungle, can't it? Because there is always some earth and 
water and sun. But there's still the jungle, struggling for 
its own existence, and the sick screeching of animals 
terrified of each other. As if laughter were proof! 

harry. And we and the Party don't want to do away with the 
jungle, I suppose? 

ada. No, you do not want to do away with the jungle, I 
suppose. You have never cried against the jungle of an 
industrial society. You've never wanted to destroy its 
values — simply to own them yourselves. It only seemed a 
crime to you that a man spent all his working hours in 
front of a machine because he did not own that machine. 
Heavens ! the glory of owning a machine ! 

sarah. So what, we shouldn't care any more? We must all 
run away ? 

ada. Care ! Care! What right have we to care? How can we 
care for a world outside ourselves when the world inside is 
in disorder ? Care ! Haven't you ever stopped, Mother — I 
mean stopped — and seen yourself standing with your 
arms open, and suddenly paused? Come to my bosom. 
Everyone come to my bosom. How can you possibly 
imagine that your arms are long enough, for God's sake ? 
What audacity tells you you can harbour a billion people 

42 



CHICKEN SOUP WITH BARLEY 

in a theory? What great, big, stupendous, egotistical 

audacity, tell me ? 
ronnie. Whoa, whoa ! 
harry. But it is an industrial age, you silly girl. Let's face 

facts — 
ada (mocking). Don't let us kid ourselves. 
harry {with her). Don't let us kid ourselves — it's a challenge 

of our time. 
ada. Balls! 

harry. You can't run away from it. 
ada. Stop me ! 
harry. Then you're a coward — that's all I can say — you're 

a coward. 
sarah (sadly). She had a fine example from her father, didn't 

she? 
harry (to this stab in the back). What do you mean — a fine 

example from her father ? 
sarah. You don't understand what I'm saying, I suppose? 
harry (he is hurt and throws a hand at her in disgust). Ach ! you 

make me sick. 
sarah (mocking). Ach, you make me sick. J make him sick. 

Him, my fine man ! You're the reason why she thinks like 

this, you know that? 
harry. Yes, me. 

sarah. Well, of course you. Who else? 
ronnie (collecting dishes and escaping to the kitchen). I'll wash up. 
harry. I didn't bring her up — she's all your work. 
sarah. That's just it! You didn't bring her up. You weren't 

concerned, were you ? You left it all to me while you went 

to your mother's or to the pictures or out with your 

friends. 
harry. Yes. I went out with my friends. Sure ! 
sarah. Well, didn't you? May I have so many pennies for the 

times you went up West to pictures. 

43 



ACT TWO 

harry. Oh, leave off, Sarah. 

sarah. Leave off! That's all he can say — leave off, leave me 

alone. That was it. I did leave you alone. That's why I had 

all the trouble. 
ADA. I'm going home, Mummy. 
sarah (caressingly and apologetically). Oh no, Ada, stay, it's 

early yet. Stay. We'll play solo. 
ADA. I'm feeling tired and I must write to Dave. 
sarah. Well, stay here and write to Dave. We'll all be quiet. 

Ronnie's going out. Daddy'll go to bed and I've got some 

washing to do. Stay, Ada, stay. What do you want to rush 

home for ? A cold, miserable, two-roomed flat, all on your 

own. Stay. We're a family, aren't we? 
ADA (putting on her coat). I've also got washing to do, I must go — 
sarah. I'll do it for you. What's a mother for? Straight from 

work I'll go to your place and bring it back with me. Stay. 

You've got company here — perhaps Uncle Hymie and 

Auntie Lottie'll come up. What do you want to be on 

your own for, tell me ? 
ada. I'm not afraid of being on my own — I must go. 
sarah (wearily). Go then! Will we see you tomorrow? 
ADA. Yes, I'll come for supper tomorrow night. Good night. 

(Calling) Good night, Ronnie. 
ronnie (appearing from kitchen). 'Night, Addy. 
sarah. You washing up, Ronnie? 
ronnie. I'm washing up. 
sarah. You I don't have to worry about — but your sister runs 

away. At the first sight of a little bother she runs away. 

Why does she run away, Ronnie? Before she used to sit 

and discuss things, now she runs to her home — such a 

home to run to — two rooms and a shadow ! 
ronnie. But, Ma, she's a married woman herself. You think 

she hasn't her own worries wondering what it'll be like to 

see Dave after all these years ? 

44 



CHICKEN SOUP WITH BARLEY 

sarah. But you never run away from a discussion. At least 
I've got you around to help me solve problems. 

ronnie. Mother, my one virtue — if I got any at all — is that 
I always imagine you can solve things by talking about 
them — ask my form master ! (Returns to kitchen.) 

sarah (wearily to Harry). You see what you do ? That's your 
daughter. Not a word from her father to ask her to stay. 
The family doesn't matter to you. All your life you've let 
the family fall around you, but it doesn't matter to you. 

harry. I didn't drive her away. 

sarah (bitterly). No — you didn't drive her away. How could 
you? You were the good, considerate father. 

(Harry turns' away and hunches himself up miserably.) 
Look at you ! Did you shave this morning ? Look at the 
cigarette ash on the floor. Your shirt ! When did you last 
change your shirt ? He sits. Nothing moves him, nothing 
worries him. He sits ! A father ! A husband ! 

harry (taking out a cigarette to light). Leave me alone, 
please leave me alone, Sarah. You started the row, not 
me, you ! 

sarah (taking cigarette from his hand). Why must you always 
smoke ? — talk with me. Talk, talk, Harry. 

harry. Sarah! (He stops, chokes, and then stares wildly around 
him.) Mamma. Mamma. (He is having his first stroke.) 

sarah (frightened but not hysterical). Harry ! Harry ! What is it? 

harry (in Yiddish, gently). Vie iss sie — der mamma? 

sarah. Stop it, Harry. 

harry. Sie iss dorten — der mamma ? 

sarah. Ronnie ! Ronnie ! 

(Ronnie comes in from the kitchen) 
Doctor Woolfson — quick, quick, get him. 

ronnie. What's happening ? 

sarah. I don't know. 
(Ronnie runs out) 

45 



ACT TWO 



Harry, it was only a quarrel, you silly man. None of your 
tricks now, Harry — Harry, you hear me? 
harry. Vie iss sie ? Mamma, mamma. 



CURTAIN 



Scene 2 



October 1947. We are in the same room. Ronnie is making afire 
in the grate. When this is done he puts on the radio and goes into the 
kitchen. The 'Egmont' overture comes over the radio. Ronnie 
comes out of the kitchen with a cup of tea. On hearing the music he 
lays down the cup and picks up a pencil and proceeds to conduct an 
imaginary orchestra, until Cissie is seen moving along the balcony. 
She lets herself in and surprises Ronnie. She is carrying a brief-case, 

ronnie. Aunt! 

cissie. Hello, Junior. I've come to see your father. 

ronnie. Not back from work yet. Just in time for a cuppa. 

(Goes off to make one.) 
cissie. He still has that job, then? 
ronnie (from kitchen). Can't hear you. 
cissie. Turn this bloody wireless down. (Does so.) 
ronnie. Aunty ! Please ! Beethoven ! 
cissie. I know, I know. Some other time. I'm not feeling so 

good. (Takes cigarette from handbag.) 
ronnie (entering with tea). What price partition in Palestine, 

Aunt? 
cissie. Russia's backing the plan. 
ronnie. Yes — and haven't the Arabs got upset over that. 

They're taking it to the high courts. They expected Russia 

to attack the United Nations plan if only to upset the 

West. Power politics ! 
cissie. Has your father still got that job? 

46 



CHICKEN SOUP WITH BARLEY 

ronnie. No, he's a store-keeper in a sweet factory now. Look. 
(Shows her a biscuit tin full of sweets.) Jelly babies. Can't help 
himself. Doesn't do it on a large scale, mind, just a handful 
each night. Everyone does it. 

cissie. How long has he been there ? 

ronnie. Three weeks. You know he can't stay long at a job — 
and now he has got what he has always wanted — a legiti- 
mate excuse. 

cissie. He can walk, can't he? 

ronnie. He walks — slowly and stooped — with his head 
sunk into his shoulders, hands in his pockets. (Imitates his 
father) His step isn't sure — frightened to exert himself in 
case he should suddenly drop dead. You ought to see him 
in a strong wind — (moves drunkenly round the room) like an 
autumn leaf. He seems to have given up the fight, as though 
thank God he was no longer responsible for himself. You 
know, Aunt, I don't suppose there is anything more 
terrifying to a man than his own sense of failure, and your 
brother Harry is really a very sensitive man. No one knows 
more than he does how he's failed. Now that's tragedy for 
you : having the ability to see what is happening to your- 
self and yet not being able to do anything about it. Like a 
long nightmare. God ! fancy being born just to live a long 
nightmare. He gets around. But who knows how sick he 
is ? Now we can't tell his lethargy from his illness. 

cissie. It sounds just like Mother. Mother was bed-ridden for 
years. He seems to be moving that way — 

ronnie. Almost deliberately. Here! (Goes to a drawer and 
takes out a notebook.) Did you know he once started to 
write his autobiography? Listen. (Reads.) 'Of me, the dum- 
my and my family.' How's that for a poetic title ! 'Sitting 
at my work in the shop one day my attention was drawn 
to the dummy that we all try the work on. The rhythm of 
the machines and my constant looking at the dummy 

47 



ACT TWO 

rocked me off in a kind of sleepy daze. And to my surprise 
the dummy began to take the shape of a human, it began 
to speak. Softly at first, so softly I could hardly hear it. And 
then louder and still louder, and it seemed to raise its eye- 
brows and with a challenge asked: Your life, what of your 
life ? My life 2 I had never thought, and I began to take my 
mind back, way back to the time when I was a little boy.' 
There, a whole notebook full, and then one day he stopped ! 
Just like that ! God knows why a man stops doing the one 
thing that can keep him together. 

cissie. How's Ada and Dave? 

ronnie. Struggling in a tied cottage in the country. Ada 
suckles a beautiful baby, Dave lays concrete floors in the 
day-time and makes furniture by hand in the evening. 

cissie. Lunatics! 

ronnie. They're happy. Two Jews in the Fens. They had to 
get a Rabbi from King's Lynn to circumcise the baby. A 
Rabbi from King's Lynn! Who'd ever think there were 
Rabbis in King's Lynn ? 

cissie. And you? 

ronnie. A bookshop. 

cissie. Same one ? 

ronnie. Same one. 

cissie. You're also crazy and mixed up, I suppose? 

ronnie (highly indignant). Don't call me that! God in heaven, 
don't call me that ! I'm a poet. 

cissie. Another one! 

ronnie. A socialist poet. 

cissie. A socialist poet ! 

ronnie. I have all the world at my fingertips. Nothing is 
mixed up. I have so much life that I don't know who to 
give it to first. I see beyond the coloured curtains of my 
eyes to a world — say, how do you like that line ? Beyond 
the coloured curtains of my eyes, waiting for time and 

48 



CHICKEN SOUP WITH BARLEY 

timing nothing but the slow hours, lay the thoughts in the 
mind. Past the pool of my smile . . . 

cissie. What does that mean ? 

ronnie. What, the pool of my smile ? It's a metaphor — the 
pool of my smile — a very lovely metaphor. How's trade- 
union activity ? 

cissie. We've got a strike on. Dillingers are probably going to 
lock out its workers. 

ronnie. Ah, Dillingers! 'Dillinger styles gets all the men's 
smiles, this is the wear for everywhere !' No wonder the 
workers don't like poetry. 

cissie. The old boy wants to reduce their wages because 
they're doing sale work. 

ronnie. What's that? 

cissie. You know — sale work — specially made-up clothes 
for the big West End sales. 

ronnie. You mean a sale is not what is left over from the 
season before? 

cissie. Oh, grow up, Ronnie. You should know that by now. 
It's cheaper stuff, inferior quality. 

ronnie. And the union doesn't protest ? (Jumping on a chair and 
waving his arms in the air) Capitalist exploiters! The bas- 
tards — if you'll excuse the expression. I'll write a book 
about them ! I'll expose them in their true light. What a 
novel, Aunt — set in a clothing factory, the sweat shops, 
the — 

cissie. Look, you want to hear about this strike or you don't 
want to hear about this strike? 

(Ronnie sits down.) 
So because it's sale work Dillinger wants to cut the 
women's wages by ten per cent and the men's by twelve 
and a half per cent. So what does he plan to do ? I'll tell you 
what he plans to do — he plans to pay all thirty of them 
for one full week, sack them, and then re-employ them, 

49 



ACT TWO 

which would mean they were new employees and only 
entitled to Board of Trade rate, which is considerably less. 

ronnie. But can he do that? 

cissie. He did it ! He did it ! The girls told me. But this year 
the shop stewards got together and asked me to go down 
and negotiate. They didn't all want it, mind you. One 
wagged his finger at me and cried: 'We're not taking your 
advice, we're not taking your advice !' I gave them — you 
know me. First I read the Riot Act to them and then I lashed 
out. You ought to be ashamed of yourselves, I told them, 
after the union struggled hard, tooth and nail, for every 
penny you get and at the first sign of intimidation you want 
to give in. For shame ! I yelled at them — for shame ! I tell 
you, Ronnie — a boss you can always handle because he 
always wants to bribe you, and that gives you the upper 
hand — but the worker . . . 

(Harry has by this time entered through the front door, and 
he shuffles down the passage into the front room. He is 
slightly paralysed down one side but is still very able to move 
around. The first stroke has just made him age prematurely.) 

harry. Hello, Cissie, what are you doing here? 

cissie. I've come to see you. Well, how are you ? 

harry. I'm all right, Cissie, I'm fine. 

cissie. Can you work all right ? 

harry. I can't move my left hand very well. Lost its grip or 
something. (Clutches and unclutches fist to prove the point.) 

ronnie (gripping Harry's hand in a shake). Strong as an ox. 
You're a sham, Harry boy. Want some tea? 

harry. Yes please, son. 

cissie. What do the doctors say is wrong with you ? 

harry. I had a stroke — that's all they know. They don't tell 
you anything in the hospitals these days. Sarah's gone to 
the doctor's now to find out if I can go back again for 
observation. 

50 



CHICKEN SOUP WITH BARLEY 

cissie. More observation ? 

harry. Ach! Don't talk to me about them, they make me 

sick. 
cissie. All those blood tests they took and they still don't 

know — after a year. I'm surprised you had that much 

blood. Well, I'm going. Here, smoke yourself to death. 

(Hands him forty cigarettes.) 
ronnie (bringing in the tea). Going? 
cissie. I've got a strike meeting. 
ronnie. In the evening ? 
cissie. Any time. So long, Junior. 

(She kisses Harry and Ronnie and goes out. On the landing 
she meets Sarah.) 

Hello, Sarah. I just come to see Harry. Sorry I must go. 

How are you ? 
sarah. I'm all right. Why don't you stay for supper? 
cissie (out of sight by now). I've got a strike meeting. I'll be 

seeing you. 
harry (to Sarah as she comes in). Did you go to the doctor's? 
sarah (wearily). I've been, I've been. Oh, those stairs will kill 

me. 

harry. What does he say? 

sarah (taking out a letter from her bag and placing it on the 

mantelpiece). He gave me a letter: you should take it to the 

hospital. 
harry. What does it say ; show me. 
sarah. It's sealed; you mustn't open it. 
harry. Show me it. 
sarah. What can you see ? It's sealed. 
harry (irritably). Oh, I want to see who it's addressed to. 

(Too tired to cope with him she hands him the letter and then 
goes to the kitchen.) 
sarah {from the kitchen). Did anybody make supper ? 
ronnie. We've not long come in. (To Harry, taking away the 

51 



ACT TWO 

envelope he is trying to open) Uh-uh. Mustn't open. It's for 

the hospital. 
sarah (entering with a cup of tea and sitting down). I've got a 

branch meeting tonight. Ronnie, you can take your own 

supper. It's fried fish from yesterday. You want to come 

with me, Harry? 
harry. I don't feel like going to any branch meeting. 
sarah. You want to get well, don't you? You don't want to 

become an invalid, do you ? So come to a meeting tonight. 

Mix with people. They're your comrades, aren't they? 
harry. Yes, my comrades. 
sarah. Nothing is sacred for him. Ach ! Why should I worry 

whether you come or not. What are you doing, Ronnie ? 
ronnie. An evening in. I want to write a novel tonight. 
sarah. What, all in one night? Ronnie, do you think you'll 

ever publish anything ? I mean, don't you have to be famous 

or be able to write or something ? There must be such a 

lot of people writing novels. 
ronnie. Not socialist novels. Faith, Mother, faith ! I am one of 

the sons of the working class, one of its own artists. 
harry. You mean a political writer like Winston Churchill? 
sarah. What, does he write novels as well ? I thought he was 

only a politician. 
ronnie. Well, he's both — and he paints pictures. 
sarah. A painter ? He paints pictures ? Landscapes and things ? 
ronnie. Of course ! And in his spare time he — 
sarah. What, he has spare time also ? 
ronnie. In his spare time he builds walls at the bottom of his 

garden. 
sarah (in admiration). A bricklayer! Ronnie, I told you you 

should take up a trade ! Why don't you ? Go to evening 

classes. Why should you waste your time in a bookshop ? 

If I were young, oh, what wouldn't I study ! All the world 

I would study. How properly to talk and to write and 

52 



CHICKEN SOUP WITH BARLEY 

make sentences. You'll be sorry — don't be like your 
father, don't be unsettled. Learn a good trade and then you 
have something to fall back on. You can always write — 
and when you work then you'll have something to write 
about. 

ronnie. Give me a chance, Ma. I only left school a year ago. 

sarah. That's what he kept on saying. Give me a chance! 
Everybody had to give him a chance: now look at him. 
Harry — you're not working in the sweet factory any 
more, are you ? 

harry. Who said I'm not? 

ronnie. Well, isn't he ? 

sarah. Well, ask him, he knows. 

(Ronnie inclines his head inquiringly.) 

harry. Of course I'm still working there. 

sarah (wearily, for the time has gone for violent rows). Harry, 
answer me. What do you gain by telling me this lie ? Tell 
me, I want to know. All my life I've wanted to know what 
you've gained by a lie. /know you're not working because 
I saw the foreman. You're not even a good liar. I've always 
known when you've lied. For twenty-five years it's been 
the same and all the time I've not known what it's about. 
But you know — no one else knows, but you do. I'm asking 
you, Harry — let me be your doctor, let me try and help 
you. What is it that makes you what you are ? Tell me — 
only tell me. Don't sit there and say nothing. I'm entitled 
to know — after all this time, I'm entitled to know. Well, 
aren't I, Ronnie? 
(Nobody answers her. Harry avoids her gaze, Ronnie 
waits till it's all over.) 
So look at him. He sits and he sits and he sits and all his life 
goes away from him. (To Ronnie) You won't be like that, 
will you ? 

ronnie. I shall never take up a trade I hate as he did — if that's 

53 



ACT TWO 

what you mean; and I shall never marry — at least not 
until I'm real and healthy. (Cheerfully) But what's there to 
grumble about, little Sarah? You have two splendid 
children, a fine son-in-law and a grandson. 

sarah. I haven't seen my grandson yet. My daughter lives two 
hundred miles away from me and my husband is a sick 
man. That's my family. Well, it's a family, I suppose. (She 
rises to go.) 

ronnie. What about me? (He regards himself in a mirror.) 
Young, good-looking, hopeful, talented . . . hopeful, any- 
way. 

sarah (sadly). You? I'll wait and see what happens to you. 
Please God you don't make a mess of your life, please God. 
Did you ask for that rise ? 

ronnie. I did ask for that rise. 'Mr Randolph,' I said — he's 
the manager of that branch — 'Mr Randolph, I know that 
the less wages you pay us bookshop assistants the more you 
get in your salary. But don't you think I've sold enough 
books for long enough time to warrant you forgoing some 
of your commission?' 

sarah. So what did he say, you liar? 

ronnie. 'You're our best salesman,' he said, 'but I've got to 
keep head office happy.' 

sarah. So what did you say, you liar ? 

ronnie. So I said, 'It's not head office, it's your wife.' 

sarah. So what did he say, you liar? 

ronnie. He said, 'Kahn,' he said, 'as you're so frank and you 
know too much I'll give you a two-pound rise.' 

sarah. Ronnie, did you get a rise, I asked you ? 

ronnie (kissing her). No, I did not get a rise. 

sarah. Mad boy, you ! I'm going to the meeting. 

ronnie. That's it, Mother. You go to the meeting. At least if 
you keep on fighting then there's hope for me. (He helps 
her on with a coat as he speaks, then she goes. Returning to 

54 



CHICKEN SOUP WITH BARLEY 

room) You want supper, Dad? It's the old dead fish again. 
I'll lay it for you. (Moves to kitchen.) 
harry. Aren't you going to eat ? 

ronnie (from kitchen). I'm not hungry. I'll eat later. I must 
work now. You want me to read the first chapter to you, 
Dad? 
harry. Oh, leave me alone, Ronnie — I'm tired. 
ronnie. Tired ! You're not tired, Harry — you're just drown- 
ing with heritage, mate! (Re-enters with an assortment of 
plates, which he lays on the table.) There, you can wash up 
after you. I'm going to my room now. 
(Ronnie goes to his room. Harry moves the table and begins 
to eat. He eats in silence for a few seconds, then stretches out 
for a newspaper. After glancing through this he turns to the 
mantelpiece and sees the letter. He looks to Ronnie's room to 
make sure he is not coming and then moves slowly across to 
get the letter. First of all he tries to prise it open without 
tearing anything. Then not succeeding in this he moves to the 
table to get a knife. As he picks up the knife Ronnie enters 
again) 
ronnie. Christ ! It's bloody cold in that room : I — now, then 
Harry — (as though playfully scolding a child) you know you 
must not read the letter, remember what Mummykins 
said. (He moves to take it.) 

harry (retaining it). I want to see it; it's about me, isn't 

what's in it. 
ronnie (making another bid for it). Use some will-power, Dad; 

you know the letter is not for you. Now leave it be, there's 

a good boy. 
harry {still retaining it). I want to see it; it's about me, isn't 

it? Now leave off, Ronnie. 
ronnie (snatching it from his father's hand). No ! 
harry (banging his hand on the table in rapid succession with the 

words, like a child in anger, hating to be like a child, and 

55 



ACT TWO 

shrieking). GIVE ME THAT LETTER. GIMME. S'mine. 
S'mine. I WAN' THAT ENVELOPE. Now. This instant. 
I — wan' — that — envelope ! 

(Ronnie stands there trembling. He had not meant to provoke 
such anger, and now, having done so. is upset. He is not quite 
sure what to do. Almost involuntarily he hands over the 
envelope, and when he has done so he goes to a wall and cries. 
He is still a boy — he has been frightened. Harry picks up 
envelope, himself distraught. He does not bother to open it 
now. Seeing that Ronnie is crying he goes over to him and 
clasps him.) 
harry. You shouldn't do these things. I'm a sick man. If I 
want to open the envelope you shouldn't stop me. You've 
got no right to stop me. Now you've upset me and your- 
self — you silly boy. 
ronnie. Can't you see that I can't bear what you are. I don't 
want to hear your lies all my life. Your weakness frightens 
me, Harry — did you ever think about that ? I watch you 
and I see myself and I'm terrified. 
harry (wandering away from him; he does not know what to say). 
What I am — I am. I will never alter. Neither you nor 
your mother will change me. It's too late now ; I'm an old 
man and if I've been the same all my life so I will always be. 
You can't alter people, Ronnie. You can only give them 
some love and hope they'll take it. I'm sorry. It's too late 
now. I can't help you. (He shuffles miserably to his room, 
perceptibly older.) Don't forget to have supper. Good night. 

curtain 



56 



ACT THREE 

Scene i 

November 1955. 

Harry has had his second stroke, and now paralysis has made 
him completely unfit for work. He can only just move around, has 
difficulty in talking, and is sometimes senile. Sarah retains much of 
her energy but shows signs oj age and her troubles — her tone of 
speaking is compassionate now. 

Evening, in the same L.C.C. flat. Harry sits in a chair — 
huddled by the fireplace, listening to Ravel's 'La Valse on the 
radio. He smokes more than ever, it is his one comfort. Sarah is 
sitting by the table struggling to fill out an official Government form 
— she talks a lot to herself. 

sarah (reading form). Have you an insurance policy for life or 
death? Name of company. Amount insured for. Annual 
payments. How should I know the annual payments ? I pay 
one and a penny a week — that's fifty-two shillings and 
fifty-two pennies. (Makes mental reckoning.) 

(The music on the radio has by this time reached a climax and 
is too loud. Sarah goes to turn it off.) 
Oh, shut that off! Classical music ! All of a sudden it starts 
shouting at you. 

harry. No, no, no, no, I was — I was listening. 

sarah. You liked it? 

harry. I liked it. It reminds me of — of — of — of — it 
reminds me of Blackfriars Bridge in a fog. 

sarah. Blackfriars Bridge in a fog it reminds you of? Why a 
fog? 

harry. Oh, I don't know why a fog. Why a fog ? 

sarah. And why Blackfriars Bridge ? 

harry. Because I said so ! Och, you're such a silly woman 
sometimes, Sarah. 

57 



ACT THREE 

sarah (playing with him). But if it's in a fog so what difference 
whether it's Blackfriars Bridge or London Bridge ? Ach, I 
must get these forms done before Bessie and Monty 
arrive. You remember Bessie and Monty are coming 
tonight? (Sarah continues to complete forms.) If Ronnie were 
here I'd get him to fill it in for me ... as if they don't 
know how many times I was at work this year. Forms ! 
You tell the National Insurance office that you started 
work on such and such a day so they tell the National 
Assistance and the National Assistance tells the Income 
Tax and then there's forms, forms, forms, forms. Oi — 
such forms. They can't get enough of them into one 
envelope. (Writing) No, I haven't got any property, I 
haven't got any lodgers, I haven't got a housekeeper. A 
housekeeper! A housekeeper wouldn't do what I do for 
you, Harry — washing all those sheets. 

(Monty Blatt and his wife Bessie appear on the balcony. 

They knock. Sarah jumps up.) 
They're here already. Now Harry, sit up. Do your flies up 
and brush that cigarette ash off you. And remember — 
don't let me down — you promised. You want to go now ? 

(She takes Harry's arm but he pushes her away; he doesnt 

want to go. Sarah opens the door to her visitors. Both are 

richly dressed — over-dressed — and full of bounce and 

property.) 
monty. Sarah — little Sarah. How are you, sweetheart? You 
remember Bessie ? 

(They all shake hands and enter the front room) 
Harry boy ! How's Harry ? You're looking well. You feel- 
ing well ? They haven't changed a bit. Neither of them. 
sarah. Sit down, both of you; I'll get the kettle on. (Goes off 

to kitchen.) 
monty (to Bessie). Always put the kettle on — that was the 
first thing Sarah always did. Am I right, Harry? I'm right, 

58 



CHICKEN SOUP WITH BARLEY 

aren't I? (Shouting to Sarah) Remember, Sarah? It was 

always a cup of tea first. 
sarah (coming in). I remember, I remember. 
monty (to Bessie). We used to live in their old place in the 

East End, all the boys. Remember Prince and your brother 

Hymie ? How is Hymie ? Since we moved to Manchester 

I've lost contact with everybody, everyeee-body ! 
sarah. Hymie's all right. He's got a business. His children are 

married and he stays at home all the time. Prince works in 

a second-hand shop. 
monty. A second-hand shop ? But I thought — and Cissie ? 
sarah. The union members retired her. She lives on a 

pension, visits the relatives — you know . . . 
monty. It's all broken up, then ? 
sarah. What's broken up about it? They couldn't keep up 

with the Party — so? The fight still goes on. 
monty [hastily changing the subject). And Ada and Dave and 

Ronnie ? Where are they all ? Tell me everything. Tell me 

all the news. I haven't seen you for so long, Sarah — it's so 

good to see you — isn't it good to see them, Bessie? 
sarah. Ada and Dave are still in the country. They've got 

two children. Dave is still making furniture by hand — 
monty. He makes a living ? 

sarah. They live ! They're not prosperous, but they live. 
monty. And Ronnie? Ronnie had such ambitions; what's he 

doing? 
sarah. My Ronnie? He's in Paris. 
monty. There, I told you he'd go far. 
sarah. As a cook. 

monty (not so enthusiastically). A cook? Ronnie? 
bessie (helping them out). A cook makes good money. 
monty (reviving). Sure a cook makes good money. Ronnie is 

a smart boy, isn't he, Sarah? Didn't I always say Ronnie 

was a smart boy? Nobody could understand how an East 

59 



ACT THREE 

End boy could speak with such a posh accent. But cooking ! 
He likes it? I mean he's happy? 

sarah. I tell you something, Monty. People ask me what is 
Ronnie doing and, believe me, I don't know what to an- 
swer. He used to throw his arms up in the air and say 'I 
want to do something worth while, I want to create.' 
Create ! So, he's a cook in Paris. 

monty. Please God he'll be a hotel manager one day. 

sarah. Please God. 

monty. And Harry ? (He indicates with his head that Harry has 
dozed off.) 

sarah. Poor Harry. He's had two strokes. He won't get any 
better. Paralysed down one side. He can't control his 
bowels, you know. 

bessie. Poor man. 

sarah. You think he likes it? It's ach a nebish Harry now. It's 
not easy for him. But he won't do anything to help him- 
self. I don't know, other men get ill but they fight. Harry's 
never fought. Funny thing. There were three men like 
this in the flats, all had strokes. And all three of them 
seemed to look the same. They walked the same, stooped 
the same, and all needing a shave. They used to sit outside 
together and talk for hours on end and smoke. Sit and talk 
and smoke. That was their life. Then one day one of them 
decided he wanted to live so he gets up and finds himself a 
job — running a small shoe-mender's — and he's earning 
money now. A miracle ! Just like that. But the other one — 
he wanted to die. I used to see him standing outside in the 
rain, the pouring rain, getting all wet so that he could catch 
a cold and die. Well, it happened: last week he died. 
Influenza! He just didn't want to live. But Harry was not 
like either of them. He didn't want to die but he doesn't 
seem to care about living. So ! What can you do to help a 
man like that? I make his food and I buy him cigarettes 

60 



CHICKEN SOUP WITH BARLEY 

and. he's happy. My only dread is that he will mess him- 
self. When that happens I go mad — I just don't know 
what I'm doing. 

monty. It's like that, is it? 

sarah. It's like that. That's life. But how about you, Monty? 
You still in the Party? 

monty. No, Sarah — I'm not still in the Party, and I'll tell you 
why if you want to know — 

bessie. Now, Monty, don't get on to politics. Sarah, do me a 
favour and don't get him on to politics. 

monty. Don't worry, I won't say much — 

sarah. Politics is living, Bessie. I mean everything that hap- 
pens in the world has got to do with politics. 

bessie. Listen, Sarah. Monty's got a nice little greengrocer's 
business in Manchester, no one knows he was ever a 
member of the Party and we're all happy. It's better he 
forgets it. 

monty. No, no — I'll tell her, let me tell her. 

bessie. I'm warning you, Monty, if you get involved in a 
political argument I shan't stay. No political argument, you 
hear me ? 

monty. Listen, Sarah. Remember Spain? Remember how 
we were proud of Dave and the other boys who answered 
the call ? But did Dave ever tell you the way some of the 
Party members refused to fight alongside the Trotskyists ? 
And one or two of the Trotskyists didn't come back and 
they weren't killed in the fighting either ? And remember 
Itzack Pheffer — the Soviet Yiddish writer? We used to 
laugh because Itzack Pheffer was a funny name — ha, ha. 
Where's Itzack Pheffer? everyone used to say. Well, we 
know now, don't we. The great leader' is dead now, and 
we know. The whole committee of the Jewish Anti- 
Fascist League were shot! Shot, Sarah! In our land of 
socialism. That was our land — what a land that was for us ! 

61 



ACT THREE 

We didn't believe the stories then ; it wasn't possible that 
it could happen in our one-sixth of the world. 

sarah. And you believe the stories now, Monty ? 

monty (incredulously). You don't — 

bessie. Now, Monty — 

monty. You don't believe it, Sarah? You won't believe it! 

sarah. And supposing it's true, Monty ? So ? What should we 
do, bring back the old days? Is that what you want? 

monty. I don't know, sweetheart. I haven't got any solutions 
any more. I've got a little shop up north — I'm not a 
capitalist by any means — I just make a comfortable living 
and I'm happy. Bessie — bless her — is having a baby. 
(Taps Bessie's belly.) I'm going to give him all that I can, 
pay for his education, university if he likes, and then I shall 
be satisfied. A man can't do anything more, Sarah, believe 
me. There's nothing more to life than a house, some friends, 
and a family — take my word. 

sarah. And when someone drops an atom bomb on your 
family? 

monty (pleading). So what can I do — tell me ? There's nothing 
I can do any more. I'm too small; who can I trust? It's 
a big, lousy world of mad politicians — I can't trust them, 
Sarah. 

sarah. The kettle's boiling — I'll make some tea. (Goes to 
kitchen.) 

bessie. Enough now, Monty, enough. 

monty (he has upset himself). All right, all right. I didn't tell 
her anything she doesn't know. She's a fine woman is 
Sarah. She's a fighter. All that worry and she's still going 
strong. But she has one fault. For her the world is black and 
white. It you're not white so you must be black. She can't 
see shades in character — know what I mean ? She can't see 
people in the round. 'They' are all the same bunch. The 
authorities, the governments, the police, the Post Office — 

62 



CHICKEN SOUP WITH BARLEY 

even the shopkeepers. She's never trusted any of them, 
always fighting them. It was all so simple. The only thing 
that mattered was to be happy and eat. Anything that made 
you unhappy or stopped you from eating was the fault of 
capitalism. Do you think she ever read a book on political 
economy in her life ? Bless her ! Someone told her socialism 
was happiness so she joined the Party. You don't find many 
left like Sarah Kahn. I wish you'd have known us in the old 
days. Harry there used to have a lovely tenor voice. All 
the songs we sang together, and the strikes and the rallies. 
I used to carry Ronnie shoulder high to the May Day 
demonstrations. Everyone in the East End was going 
somewhere. It was a slum, there was misery, but we were 
going somewhere. The East End was a big mother. 

(Sarah comes in with the tea.) 
We'll talk about the good times now, shall we, Sarah? 
Blimey, sweetheart, it's not often that I come to London 
for a week-end. Here, remember the stall I used to have in 
Petticoat Lane ? I'll take you there tomorrow, Bessie. And 
Manny the Corn King? Him and his wife used to go to 
Norwich, to sell phoney corn cures. His wife used to dress 
up as a nurse and they'd hang letters round the stall from 
people who were supposed to have been cured. 

sarah. And what about Barney ? 

monty. And Barney, that's it! He used to sell all the old 
farmers a lucky charm to bring them fortune. Sixpence 
each he'd sell them for and you know what they were? 
Haricot beans! Haricot beans dropped in dye to colour 
them. You could get them for threepence a pound 
in a grocer's shop and Barney sold them for sixpence 
each! Sixpence! A pound of beans used to last him for 
months. 

sarah. Ach ! Horrible times ! Horrible times — dirty, unclean, 
cheating ! 

63 



ACT THREE 

monty. But friendly. 

sarah. Friendly, you call it? You think it was friendly to 

swindle people ? 
monty. Sweetheart, you take life too seriously. Believe me, 
those farmers knew very well what they were buying. 
Nobody swindled anybody because everyone knew. 
sarah. You think so, Monty? 

(Harry wakes up with a jerk. Something has happened. He 
tries hurriedly to rise.) 
harry. Sarah, quick, help me. 

sarah. What! It's happened? (She moves quickly to him.) 
monty. What is it, Harry boy? 

sarah. It's happened, Harry? Well, quickly then, quickly. 
(Harry, crippled by paralysis and this attack of incontinence, 
shuffles, painfully, towards the toilet, with Sarah almost 
dragging him along. He whines and groans pathetically.) 
In front of Monty and Bessie. I'm so ashamed. 
(Monty attempts to help Harry move.) 
(Abruptly) No, leave him. It's all right. I'll manage. Leave 
him, Monty. 

( They struggle out and into the passage. When they have left 
the front room, Bessie turns her head away and shudders.) 
bessie. Oh, good God ! 
monty. Poor Sarah and Harry. Jesus ! It's all come to this ? 

CURTAIN 



Scene 2 

December 1956. 

The Kahns* room, late one evening. Sarah, Prince, Hymie 
and Cissie are sitting round the table playing solo. Harry is by the 
fire, gazing into it, quite oblivious of what is going on. The cards 

64 



CHICKEN SOUP WITH BARLEY 

have just been dealt for a round. Everyone is evaluating his cards in 

silence. After some seconds: 

prince (studying his cards). What time you expecting Ronnie, 

Sarah? 
sarah (studying her cards). He's supposed to arrive at nine 

thirty tonight. 
(Again silence.) 
hymie (to Cissie). Nu? Call ! 
cissie. Misere. 
sarah. How can you call a misere when I want to call a 

misere ? 
cissie. Please, Sarah — don't give the game away. 
prince. Wait a minute, not everybody has passed. 
cissie. All right then, call ! 
sarah. Pass. 
prince. Pass. 

HYMIE. Pass. 

cissie. Thank you. Can I start now ? 

sarah. Is it your lead ? I thought Prince dealt the cards. 

cissie. What's the matter with you, Sarah? — Hymie dealt 

them. 
prince. I could have sworn Sarah dealt them. 
cissie. Hymie, who dealt the cards ? 
hymie. We've been so long deciding what to call that I don't 

know any more. Did I deal them ? I don't remember. 
(There is a general discussion as to who dealt them.) 
cissie. Now quiet, everybody. Quiet ! Every time I come to 

this house to play solo there's the same confusion. Why 

don't you pay attention to the game? Now then, what 

was laid on the table for trumps ? 
sarah. The two of spades. 

hymie. That was the last round. It was the six of diamonds. 
sarah. But I saw it with my own eyes, it was the — 
hymie. You aren't wearing your glasses, Sarah. 

65 



ACT THREE 

prince. It was the six of hearts, I remember now. 

cissie. Ah, thank God ! We've got two people to agree. I also 
saw the six of hearts on the table. Who's got the six of 
hearts ? 

hymie. I have. 

cissie. Which means that you dealt and if you dealt that means 
that I lead. Everybody happy now ? There ! 
(Cissie throws down a card. The others follow. It's Hymie's 
trick. He lays down a card and the others follow, hut Sarah 
realizes she has made a mistake) 

sarah. Wait a minute, wait a minute. I didn't mean to play 
that card. 

cissie. Too late ; you should watch the game. 

sarah. Ach ! fool that I am. But you can see I shouldn't have 
played that card. 

cissie. Of course I can see, but I'm glad that you did ! 

sarah. Now, Hymie, would I normally play that card ? 

hymie. You aren't wearing your glasses, Sarah: I told you. 
We can still catch her. Now play. 

sarah. A second, a second. Let me get my glasses. {Finds her 
hag, takes out her glasses and proceeds to puff on them and clean 
them.) I don't know what's happened to my eyes lately. I 
went to have my glasses changed the other day — the rims 
were too big for me, kept slipping into my mouth — so 
I went to have them changed. The man said he couldn't 
change them because they were National Health glasses. 
So you know me, I tell him what for and he says, 'Madam,' 
he says, 'you want your money back?' So I say, 'Sure I 
want my money back.' And then I go up to the National 
Health offices — now listen to this — I go up to the 
National Health offices and I complain about the small 
allowance they make me for Harry. So the chap behind 
the desk — may he wake up dead — he says, 'What do 
you want, madam, ten pounds a week?' Did you ever 

66 



CHICKEN SOUP WITH BARLEY 

hear? So I said, 'Son,' I said, 'when you were still peeing 
all over the floor I was on strike for better conditions, and 
don't you be cheeky.' 'Oh dear, you musn't talk to me like 
that per, per, per, per!' 
prince. Come on, Sarah, the game. 

(It is Prince's lead. The others follow; it is his trick again. 

Again he leads and the others follow . Now it is for Sarah to 

lead, and she does so.) 

What did you play hearts for? Couldn't you see what suit 

I was showing you ? 

sarah. Prince, let me play my own game. Don't I know what 

I'm doing ? 
prince. Well, it doesn't look like it, Sarah, so help me it 
doesn't. You can't be watching the game. Couldn't you 
guess she was going to throw off on hearts? 
cissiE. What is this ! In the middle of the game ! 
sarah. Of course I could see, but how do you know that I 

can't play anything else? 
cissie. Are you going to play solo or aren't you going to play 

solo ? No inquests, please. 
hymie. Prince, play your game. 

cissie. It's always the same. You can't even get a good game 
of solo these days ! 

(Prince plays his card and they all follow) 
sarah. Look at him! Now he comes out diamonds and he 
wants to teach me how to play solo. 

(Sarah leads next time, and after that Cissie lays down her 
cards and shows that she cant be caught) 
cissie. There! Three-halfpence from everybody, please. 

(Now everybody looks at everybody else's hand to see where 
everybody else went wrong.) 
sarah. Well, of course I couldn't catch her, not with my hand. 
prince. Why did you come out with hearts when you knew 
she might be throwing off on them? 

67 



ACT THREE 

sarah. Because I wanted to give the lead away — J couldn't 

do anything. 
hymie. But why give the lead away with hearts when you 

knew she might not have any ? 
sarah. How was I to know ? It was my smallest card. 
cissie. You never could play a good game of solo, Sarah. 
sarah. But do me a favour — 
cissie. Spades ! That was the suit to play. 
sarah. Spades ? Never ! 

(Again everybody starts to speak at once until a loud scream 
brings them to silence. It comes from the playground below 
and is followed by a young girl's voice crying.) 
girl's voice. Philip ! Philip ! I want my Philip. Leave me 

alone — go away. 
man's voice. Go 'ome, I tell you, 'ome, you silly cow. 'Ome ! 
girl's voice. I won't go till I see Philip. I love him ! I love him ! 
cissie. They making a film out there or something ? 

(They all go out to the balcony and look down. Sarah walks 
along it off-stage to see what the commotion is all about.) 

Can't see a thing. There's always something happening in 

these flats. Last week a woman tried to gas herself. Come 

on, let's go in. 

(They return to room.) 
harry. What happened ? 
prince. Your neighbours are having a party. Sarah's gone to 

see who's dead. 
hymie. Why did the woman want to commit suicide ? 
cissie (raising her skirt to warm her behind). Who knows why a 

woman of thirty-two wants to commit suicide? These 

flats are a world on their own. You live a whole lifetime 

here and not know your next-door neighbour. 
harry. I don' — I don' — I don' — 
cissie. Do you want to write it down? 
harry. I don' know the woman downstairs yet. 

68 



CHICKEN SOUP WITH BARLEY 

(Everyone smiles for him, and having said his piece he returns 
to gazing at the fire. Sarah re-enters.) 

sarah. Children ! They don't know what to do with them- 
selves. Seems she'd just spent the evening watching tele- 
vision with Philip and it was a horror film or something 
and he kept frightening her. Frightening her! That's all 
they can do to each other! She got home late and her 
father started on her so she ran back and started screaming 
for Philip. The great lover ! He came out in his pyjamas to 
soothe her. 

cissie (going to get her coat). Well, Sarah, I had a nice supper, a 
nice game of solo, and I'm going before the washing up. It 
doesn't look as though Ronnie caught that train anyway. 

sarah. I can't understand it. He wrote he was leaving Paris at 
eight this morning. 

hymie. Well, it's nearly ten thirty and I must be going as well. 

prince. Me too, Sarah. 

sarah. Won't you stay for a cup of tea at least? It's so long 
since we've played a game of solo. Harry and I don't see 
many people these days. 

hymie. It's been a nice evening, Sarah. Why don't you come 
up to us sometimes ? I'm always at home. 

sarah. What chance do I get to leave Harry now ? 

cissie. Good night, Sarah. 

(Hymie kisses Sarah and Cissie kisses Harry, and all 
leave. Sarah waves to them from the balcony and returns to 
the room. She collects the cards and tidies up.) 

sarah. Harry, you want a cup of tea ? 

harry (slowly rising). I'm going to bed. 

sarah. You won't wait up for Ronnie? 

HARRY. I'll — I'll — I'll — 

sarah. You'll what? 

harry. See him in the morning. 

(Sarah helps Harry shuffle away to bed, and then settles 

69 



ACT THREE 

down in the armchair to read. But she is tired now and lets the 
paper fall, and dozes. Ronnie appears on the balcony with 
his cases. He gently opens the door and lets himself in. He 
tiptoes over to Sarah and stands looking at her. It is no 
longer an enthusiastic Ronnie. She opens her eyes and after a 
second of looking at him she jumps up into his arms) 
sarah. I fell asleep. 
ronnie. So I saw. 

sarah. I thought you were a dream. 
ronnie. Perhaps I am. 
sarah [pushing him away to look at him). I hope not, Ronnie. 

Oh God, I hope not. Don't go away again. It's been so 

lonely without you and your friends. I don't mind not 

having any money, we can always eat, you know that, but 

I can't bear being on my own. {Begins to cry.) 
ronnie. I've only once ever seen you cry. 
sarah. What's the good of crying? 
ronnie. I wish I could cry sometimes. Perhaps if you'd have 

cried more often it would have been easier. 
sarah. It's just that I can't cope any longer, that's all. Three 

times a week Daddy has that accident and it gets too much. 

I'm an old woman now. 
ronnie. What makes you think I shall be able to cope ? 
sarah. You ? What are you talking about ? Of course you'll 

be able to cope. You're young, aren't you? You're 

going to settle down. 
ronnie. I — I'm sick, Sarah. 
sarah. Sick? 

ronnie. Oh, not physically. That's why I came home. 
sarah. Didn't you like the place where you worked? You 

always wrote how happy you were — what an experience 

it was. 
ronnie. I hated the kitchen. 
sarah. But — 

70 



CHICKEN SOUP WITH BARLEY 

ronnie. I — hated — the — kitchen! People coming and 
going and not staying long enough to understand each 
other. Do you know what I finally discovered — it's all 
my eye ! This notion of earning an honest penny is all my 
eye. A man can work a whole lifetime and when he is 
sixty-five he considers himself rich if he has saved a 
thousand pounds. Rich ! A whole lifetime of working in a 
good, steady, settled, enterprising, fascinating job ! For 
every manager in a restaurant there must be twenty chefs 
terrified of old age. That's all we are — people terrified of 
old age, hoping for the football pools to come home. It's 
all my eye, Sarah. 

sarah. I'll make you some tea. Are you hungry? 

ronnie. No, I don't want anything to eat, thank you — I 
want to talk to you about something. 

sarah. But you must have to eat, you've been travelling all 
day. 

ronnie (categorically). I do not want to eat — I want to talk. 

sarah. I'll just make some tea, then; the water's boiled. You 
sit and relax and then you'll go straight to sleep. You'll 
see, by the morning you'll feel much better. (Goes to 
kitchen.) 

ronnie. Still optimistic, Mother. Food and sleep and you can 
see no reason why a person should be unhappy. 

sarah (from the kitchen). I'd have looked blue all these years if 
I hadn't' ve been optimistic. 

ronnie. How's Harry? 

sarah (entering with two cups of tea). You'll see him tomorrow; 
he was too tired to wait up. Want some biscuits? Have a 
piece of cake. Look, cake I made specially for you — - your 
favourite. 

ronnie (loudly). Mother, don't fuss. I'm sorry. 

sarah. Is this how you've come home? You start by shout- 
ing ? Is this a nice homecoming ? 

71 



ACT THREE 

ronnie (something is obviously boiling in him). Are you still in 

the Party ? 
sarah (quizzically). Yes. 
ronnie. Active? 

SARAH. So? 

ronnie (suddenly). I don't suppose you've bothered to read 
what happened in Hungary. 

sarah. Hungary? 

ronnie. Look at me, Mother. Talk to me. Take me by the 
hand and show me who was right and who was wrong. 
Point them out. Do it for me. I stand here and a thousand 
different voices are murdering my mind. Do you know, I 
couldn't wait to come home and accuse you. 

sarah. Accuse me ? 

ronnie. You didn't tell me there were any doubts. 

sarah. What doubts? What are you talking about? 

ronnie. Everything has broken up around you and you can't 
see it. 

sarah (shouting). What, what, what, you mad boy? Explain 
what you mean. 

ronnie. What has happened to all the comrades, Sarah ? I even 
blush when I use that word. Comrade ! Why do I blush ? 
Why do I feel ashamed to use words like democracy and 
freedom and brotherhood? They don't have meaning any 
more. I have nothing to write about any more. Remember 
all that writing I did? I was going to be a great socialist 
writer. I can't make sense of a word, a simple word. You 
look at me as if I'm talking in a foreign language. Didn't it 
hurt you to read about the murder of the Jewish Anti- 
Fascist Committee in the Soviet Union ? 

sarah. You as well. Monty Blatt came up some months 
ago and said the same thing. He's also left the Party. 
He runs a greengrocer shop in Manchester. 

ronnie. And Dave and Ada in the Cotswolds, and Prince 

72 



CHICKEN SOUP WITH BARLEY 

working m a second-hand shop, and Uncle Hymie stuck 
smugly at home and Auntie Cissie once devoted — once 
involved — wandering from relative to relative. What's 
happened to us? Were we cheated or did we cheat our- 
selves? I just don't know, God in heaven, I just do not 
know! Can you understand what it is suddenly not to 
know? (Collapses into armchair.) And the terrifying thing 
is — I don't care either. 

(They sit in silence for some seconds.) 

sarah. Drink your tea, darling. 

(Ronnie closes his eyes and talks.) 

ronnie. Do you know what the trouble is, Mother? Can't 
you guess ? 

sarah. You're tired, Ronnie. 

ronnie. You do know what the trouble is. You just won't 
admit it. 

sarah. In the morning you'll feel better. 

ronnie. Think hard. Look at my face. Look at my nose and 
my deep-set eyes ; even my forehead is receding. 

sarah. Why don't you listen to me ? Go to bed and — 

ronnie. Political institutions, society — they don't really 
affect people that much. 

sarah. Ronnie! 

ronnie. Who else was it who hated the jobs he had, who 
couldn't bear the discipline imposed by a daily routine, 
couldn't make sense of himself and gave up ? 

sarah (frightened). Are you mad? 

ronnie. I've lost my faith and I've lost my ambition. Now I 
understand him perfectly. I wish I hadn't shouted at him as 
I used to. 

sarah. Mad boy! 

ronnie (rising, opens his eyes and shouts). You know that I'm 
right. Youve never been right about anything. You 
wanted everybody to be happy but you wanted them to be 

73 



ACT THREE 

happy your way. It was strawberries and cream for every- 
one — whether they liked it or not. And now look what's 
happened. The family you always wanted has disinte- 
grated, and the great ideal you always cherished has 
exploded in front of your eyes. But you won't face it. You 
just refuse to face it. I don't know how you do it but you 
do — you just do. (Louder) You're a pathological case, 
Mother — do you know that? You're still a communist! 
(He wants to take back his words but he has lost the power to 
express anything any more.) 

sarah. All right ! So I'm still a communist ! Shoot me then ! 
x 'm a communist ! I've always been one — since the time 
when all the world was a communist. You know that? 
When you were a baby and there was unemployment and 
everybody was thinking so — all the world was a com- 
munist. But it's different now. Now the people have for- 
gotten. I sometimes think they're not worth fighting for 
because they forget so easily. You give them a few 
shillings in the bank and they can buy a television so they 
think it's all over, there's nothing more to be got, they 
don't have to think any more! Is that what you want? A 
world where people don't think any more? Is that what 
you want me to be satisfied with — a television set ? Look 
at him ! My son ! He wants to die ! 

ronnie. Don't laugh at me, Sarah. 

sarah. You want me to cry again? We should all sit down 
and cry? 

ronnie. I don't see things in black and white any more. My 
thoughts keep going pop, like bubbles. That's my life now 
— you know? — a lot of little bubbles going pop. 

sarah. And he calls me a pathological case ! Pop ! Pop, pop, 
pop, pop — shmop ! You think it doesn't hurt me — the 
news about Hungary? You think I know what happened 
and what didn't happen? Do any of us know? Who do I 

74 



CHICKEN SOUP WITH BARLEY 

know who to trust now — God, who are our friends now ? 
But all my life I've fought. With your father and the 
rotten system that couldn't help him. All my life I worked 
with a party that meant glory and freedom and brother- 
hood. You want me to give it up now? You want me to 
move to Hendon and forget who I am ? If the electrician 
who comes to mend my fuse blows it instead, so I should 
stop having electricity? I should cut off my light? Socialism 
is my light, can you understand that? A way of life. A man 
can be beautiful. I hate ugly people — I can't bear meanness 
and fighting and jealousy — I've got to have light. I'm a 
simple person, Ronnie, and I've got to have light and love. 

(Ronnie looks up at her meaningfully.) 
You think I didn't love your father enough, don't you? 
I'll tell you something. When Ada had diphtheria and I 
was pregnant I asked Daddy to carry her to the hospital. 
He wouldn't. We didn't have money because he didn't 
care to work and I didn't know what to do. He disappeared. 
It was Mrs Bernstein who saved her — you remember Mrs 
Bernstein ? No, of course not, she died before you were 
born. It was Mrs Bernstein's soup. Ada still has that taste in 
her mouth — chicken soup with barley. She says it is a 
friendly taste — ask her. That saved her. Not even my 
brothers had money in those days, and a bit of dry crust 
with a cup of tea — ah ! it was wonderful. But Daddy had 
the relief money. Someone told me they saw him eating 
salt-beef sandwiches in Bloom's. He didn't care. Maybe it 
was his illness then — who knows ! He was never really a 
bad man. He never beat us or got drunk or gambled — he 
wasn't vulgar or coarse and he always had friends. So what 
was wrong ? I could never understand him. All I did was 
light him because he didn't care. Look at him now. He 
doesn't care to live. He's never cared to fully undress him- 
self and put on pyjamas; never cared to keep shaved or 

75 



ACT THREE 

washed; or be on time or even turn up! And now he 
walks around with his fly-buttons and his shoelaces undone 
because he still doesn't care to fight his illness — and the 
dirt gathers around him. He doesn't care ! And so I fought 
him because he didn't care. I fought everybody who didn't 
care. All the authorities, the shopkeepers, even today — 
those stinking assistance officers — I could buy them with 
my little finger — even now I'm still fighting them. And 
you want to be like them, like your father ? I'll fight you 
then. 

ronnie. And lose again. 

sarah. But your father was a weak man. Could you do any 
of the things he did ? 

ronnie. I would not be surprised. 

sarah. Ronnie, your father would never have left his mother 
to go abroad as you did. I don't tell you all this now to pull 
you down but on the contrary — so you should know, 
so you should care. Learn from us, for God's sake learn 
from us. What does it matter if your father was a weakling, 
or the man you worked with was an imbecile. They're 
human beings. 

ronnie. That doesn't mean a thing. 

sarah. There will always be human beings and as long as 
there are there will always be the idea of brotherhood. 

ronnie. Doesn't mean a thing. 

sarah. Despite the human beings. 

ronnie. Not a thing. 

sarah. Despite them ! 

ronnie. It doesn't mean . . . 

sarah (exasperated). All right then! Nothing, then! It all 
comes down to nothing ! People come and people go, wars 
destroy, accidents kill and plagues starve — it's all nothing, 
then ! Philosophy? You want philosophy? Nothing means 
anything! There! Philosophy! I know! So? Nothing! 

76 



CHICKEN SOUP WITH BARLEY 

Despair — die then ! Will that be achievement ? To die ? 
(Softly) You don't want to do that, Ronnie. So what if it 
all means nothing? When you know that you can start 
again. Please, Ronnie, don't let me finish this life thinking 
I lived for nothing. We got through, didn't we? We got 
scars but we got through. You hear me, Ronnie? (She 
clasps him and moans.) You've got to care, you've got to 
care or you'll die. 
(Ronnie unclasps her and moves away. He tries to say 
something — to explain. He raises his arms and some 
jumbled words come from his lips.) 
ronnie. I — I can't, not now, it's too big, not yet — it's too 
big to care for it, I — I . . . 
(Ronnie picks up his case and brokenly moves to his room 
mumbling: 'Too big, Sarah — too big, too big.') 
sarah (shouting after him). You'll die, you'll die — if you don't 
care you'll die. (He pauses at door.) Ronnie, if you don't 
care you'll die. (He turns slowly to face her.) 

CURTAIN 



77 



CHICKEN SOUP WITH BARLEY 

ENGLAND ARISE 



# 



W 



a \a ■ - a 4 1 d 



1 r J J-p-P 



^^^ 



f " J. i iij^^ ^ 



AS MAN IS ONLY HUMAN 



^m 






i 



-j.^n ^ r g 



^rrrirFfflFt^ s 



a 



Chorus 




fete 



S 



=^^ 



S 



^ 



78 



ROOTS 



For 
Dusty 



CHARACTERS OF THE PLAY 

Beatie Bryant, a young woman aged twenty-two, 

a friend of Ronnie Kahn 
Jenny Beales, her sister 
Jimmy Beales, her brother-in-law 
Mrs Bryant, her mother 
Mr Bryant, her father 
Frankie Bryant, her brother 
Pearl Bryant, her sister-in-law 
Stan Mann, a neighbour of the Bealeses 
Mr Healey, a manager at the farm 



ACT I 

An isolated cottage in Norfolk, the house of the Bealeses 

ACT II 

Scene I : Two days later at the cottage of Mr and Mrs Bryant, 

in the kitchen 
Scene 2 : The same a couple of hours later 

ACT III 

Two weeks later in the front room of the Bryants' 



Time: The present 

First presented at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, on 
25th May 1959 



NOTE ON PRONUNCIATION 

This is a play about Norfolk people; it could be a play about 
any country people and the moral could certainly extend to 
the metropolis. But as it is about Norfolk people it is im- 
portant that some attempt is made to find out how they talk. 
A very definite accent and intonation exists and personal 
experience suggests that this is not difficult to know. The 
following may be of great help : 

When the word 'won't' is used, the 'w' is left out. It sounds 
the same but the V is lost. 

Double 'ee' is pronounced 'i' as in 'it' — so that 'been' 
becomes 'bin', 'seen' becomes 'sin', etc. 

'Have' and 'had' become 'hev' and 'hed' as in 'head'. 

'Ing' loses the 'g' so that it becomes 'in'. 

'Boy' is a common handle and is pronounced 'bor' to 
sound like 'bore'. 

Instead of the word 'of they say 'on', e.g. 'I've hed enough 
on it' or 'What do you think on it ?' 

Their 'yes' is used all the time and sounds like 'year' with a 
'p' — 'yearp'. 

'Blast' is also common usage and is pronounced 'blust', a 
short sharp sound as in 'gust'. 

The cockney 'ain't' becomes 'ent' — also short and sharp. 

The Y in 'what' and 'that' is left out to give 'thaas' and 
'whaas', e.g. 'Whaas matter then?' 

Other idiosyncrasies are indicated in the play itself. 



ACT ONE 

A rather ramshackle house in Norfolk where there is no water laid 
on, nor electricity , nor gas. Everything rambles and the furniture is 
cheap and old. If it is untidy it is because there is a child in the 
house and there are few amenities, so that the mother is too over- 
worked to take much care. 

An assortment oj clobber lies around: papers and washing, coats 
and basins, a tin wash-tub with shirts and underwear to be cleaned, 
tilly lamps and primus stoves. Washing hangs on a line in the 
room. It is September. 

Jenny Beales is by the sink washing up. She is singing a 
recent pop song. She is short, fat and friendly, and wears glasses. A 
child's voice is heard from the bedroom crying 'Sweet, Mamma, 
sweet.' 

jenny (good-naturedly). Shut you up Daphne and get you to 

sleep now. (Moves to get a dishcloth.) 
child's voice. Daphy wan' sweet, sweet, sweet. 
jenny (going to cupboard to get sweet). My word child, Father 
come home and find you awake he'll be after you. (Disap- 
pears to bedroom with sweet.) There — now sleep, gal, don't 
wan' you grumpy wi' me in mornin'. 
(Enter Jimmy Beales. Also short, chubby, blond though 
hardly any hair left, ruddy complexion. He is a garage 
mechanic. Wears blue dungarees and an army pack slung over 
his shoulder. He wheels his bike in and lays it by the wall. 
Seems to be in some sort of pain — around his back. Jenny 
returns.) 
Waas matter wi' you then? 
jimmy. I don' know gal. There's a pain in my guts and one 

a'tween my shoulder blades I can hardly stand up. 
jenny. Sit you down then an' I'll git you your supper on the 

table. 
jimmy. Blust gal ! I can't eat yit. 

83 



ACT ONE 

(Jimmy picks up a pillow from somewhere and lies down on 
the sofa holding pillow to stomach. Jenny watches him a 
while.) 

jenny. Don't you know what 'tis yit? 

jimmy. Well, how should I" know what 'tis. 

jenny. I told Mother about the pain and she says it's indiges- 
tion. 

jimmy. What the hell's indigestion doin' a'tween my shoulder 
blades then ? 

jenny. She say some people get indigestion so bad it go right 
through their stomach to the back. 

jimmy. Don't be daft. 

jenny. That's what I say. Blust Mother, I say, you don't git 
indigestion in the back. Don't you tell me, she say, I hed it ! 

jimmy. What hevn't she hed. 

(Jenny returns to washing up while Jimmy struggles a while 
on the sofa. Jenny hums. No word. Then — ) 

jenny. Who d'you see today? 

jimmy. Only Doctor Gallagher. 

jenny (wheeling round). You see who? 

jimmy. Gallagher. His wife driv him up in the ole Armstrong. 

jenny. Well I go t'hell if that ent a rum thing. 

jimmy (rising and going to table; pain has eased). What's that then ? 

jenny (moving to get him supper from oven). We was down at 
the whist drive in the village and that Judy Maitland say he 
were dead. 'Cos you know he've hed a cancer this last year 
and they don't give him no longer'n three weeks don't you ? 

jimmy. Ole crows. They don' wan' nothin' less than a death 
to wake them up. 

jenny. No. No longer'n three weeks. 

girl's voice (off). Yoo-hoo ! Yoo-hoo ! 

jimmy. There's your sister. 

jenny. That's her. 

girl's voice (off). Yoo-hoo ! Anyone home? 

84 



ROOTS 

jenny (calling). Come you on in gal, don't you worry about 

yoo-hoo. 
(Enter Beatie Bryant, an ample, blonde, healthy-faced 
young woman of twenty-two years. She is carrying a case.) 
jimmy. Here she is. 
jenny (with reserve, but pleased). Hello, Beatrice — how are 

you? 
beatie (with reserve, but pleased). Hello, Jenny — how are you? 

What's that lovely smell I smell ? 
jenny. Onions for supper and bread for the harvest festival. 
beatie. Watcha Jimmy Beales, how you doin' bor ? 
jimmy. Not so bad gal, how's yourself? 
beatie. All right you know. When you comin' to London 

again for a football match? 
jimmy. O blust gal, I don' wanna go to any more o' those 

things. Ole father Bryant was there in the middle of that 

crowd and he turn around an' he say (imitating), Stop you 

a-pushin' there, he say, stop you a-pushin'. 
jenny. Where's Ronnie ? 

beatie. He's comin' down at the end of two weeks. 
jimmy. Ent you married yit ? 
beatie. No. 
jimmy. You wanna hurry then gal, a long engagement don't 

do the ole legs any good. 
jenny. Now shut you up Jimmy Beales and get that food 

down you. Every time you talk, look, you miss a mouthful ! 

That's why you complain of pain in your shoulder blades. 
beatie. You bin hevin' pains then Jimmy? 
jimmy. Blust yes ! Right a'tween my shoulder blades. 
jenny. Mother says it's indigestion. 
beatie. What the hell's indigestion doin' a'tween his shoulder 

blades ? 
jenny. Mother reckon some people get indigestion so bad it 

go right through their stomach to the back. 

85 



ACT ONE 

beatie. Don't talk daft ! 

jenny. That's what I say. Blust Mother, I say, you don' git 
indigestion in the back. Don't you tell me, she say, I hed 
it! 

beatie. What hevn't she hed. How is she? 

jenny. Still the same you know. How long you staying this 
time? 

beatie. Two days here — two weeks at home. 

jenny. Hungry gal ? 

beatie. Watchagot? 

jenny. Watcha see. 

beatie. Liver? I'll hev it! 

(Beatie makes herself at home. Near by is a pile of comics. 
She picks one up and reads.) 

jenny. We got some ice-cream after. 

beatie (absorbed). Yearp. 

jenny. Look at her. No sooner she's in than she's at them ole 
comics. You still read them ole things? 

jimmy. She don't change much do she? 

beatie. Funny that! Soon ever I'm home again I'm like I 
always was — it don' even seem I bin away. I do the same 
lazy things an' I talk the same. Funny that ! 

jenny. What do Ronnie say to it? 

beatie. He don't mind. He don't even know though. He ent 
never bin here. Not in the three years I known him. But 
I'll tell you (she jumps up and moves around as she talks) I 
used to read the comics he bought for his nephews and he 
used to get riled — 

(Now Beatie begins to quote Ronnie, and when she does 
she imitates him so well in both manner and intonation that 
in fact as the play progresses we see a picture of him through 
her.) 
'Christ, woman, what can they give you that you can be- 
so absorbed?' So you know what I used to do ? I used to get 

86 



ROOTS 

a copy of the Manchester Guardian and sit with that wide 
open — and a comic behind ! 

jimmy. Manchester Guardian ? Blimey Joe — he don' believe 
in hevin' much fun then ? 

beatie. That's what I used to tell him. 'Fun?' he say, 'fun? 
Playing an instrument is fun, painting is fun, reading a 
book is fun, talking with friends is fun — but a comic? A 
comic? for a young woman of twenty-two?' 

jenny [handing out meal and sitting down herself). He sound a 
queer bor to me. Sit you down and eat gal. 

beatie (enthusiastically). He's alive though. 

jimmy. Alive? Alive you say? What's alive about someone 
who can't read a comic ? What's alive about a person that 
reads books and looks at paintings and listens to classical 
music? 

(There is a silence at this, as though the question answers 
itself — reluctantly.) 

jimmy. Well, it's all right for some I suppose. 

beatie. And then he'd sneak the comic away from me and 
read it his-self ! 

jenny. Oh, he didn't really mind then? 

beatie. No — 'cos sometimes I read books as well. 'There's 
nothing wrong with comics,' he'd cry — he stand up on 
a chair when he want to preach but don't wanna sound too 
dramatic. 

jimmy. Eh? 

beatie. Like this, look. (Stands on a chair.) 'There's nothing 
wrong with comics only there's something wrong with 
comics all the time. There's nothing wrong with football, 
only there's something wrong with only football. There's 
nothing wrong with rock 'n' rolling, only God preserve me 
from the girl that can do nothing else !' (She sits down and 
then stands up again, remembering something else.) Oh yes, 
'and there's nothing wrong with talking about the 

87 



ACT ONE 

weather, only don't talk to me about it!' (Sits down.) 
(Jimmy and Jenny look at each other as though she, and no 
doubt Ronnie, is a little barmy. Jimmy rises and begins to 
strap on boots and gaiters ready for going out to an 
allotment.) 

jenny. He never really row with you then ? 

beatie. We used to. There was a time when he handled all 
official things for me you know. Once I was in between 
jobs and I didn't think to ask for my unemployment 
benefit. He told me to. But when I asked they told me I 
was short on stamps and so I wasn't entitled to benefit. I 
didn't know what to say but he did. He went up and argued 
for me — he's just like his mother, she argues with every- 
one — and I got it. I didn't know how to talk see, it was all 
foreign to me. Think of it ! An English girl born and bred 
and I couldn't talk the language — except for to buy food 
and clothes. And so sometimes when he were in a black 
mood he'd start on me. 'What can you talk of?' he'd ask. 
'Go on, pick a subject. Talk. Use the language. Do you 
know what language is ?' Well, I'd never thought before — 
hev you? — it's automatic to you isn't it, like walking? 
'Well, language is words,' he'd say, as though he were 
telling me a secret. 'It's bridges, so that you can get safely 
from one place to another. And the more bridges you 
know about the more places you can see!' (To Jimmy) 
And do you know what happens when you can see a place 
but you don't know where the bridge is ? 

jimmy (angrily). Blust gal, what the hell are you on about. 

beatie. Exactly! You see, you hev a row! Still, rows is all 
right. I like a row. So then he'd say: 'Bridges! bridges! 
bridges! Use your bridges woman. It took thousands of 
years to build them, use them!' And that riled me. 'Blust 
your bridges,' I'd say. 'Blust you and your bridges — I 
want a row.' Then he'd grin at me. 'You want a row?' he'd 

88 



ROOTS 

ask. 'No bridges this time?' 'No bridges,' I'd say — and 

we'd row. Sometimes he hurt me but then, slowly, he'd 

build the bridge up for me — and then we'd make love! 

(Innocently continues her meal.) 
jenny. You'd what, did you say? 
beatie. Make love. Love in the afternoon gal. Ever had it? 

It's the only time for it. Go out or entertain in the evenings ; 

sleep at night, study, work and chores in the mornings; 

but love — alert and fresh, when you got most energy — 

love in the afternoon. 
jimmy. I suppose you take time off from work every afternoon 

to do it? 
beatie. I'm talking about week-ends and holidays — daft. 
jenny. Oh, Beatie, go on wi' you ! 
beatie. Well, go t'hell Jenny Beales, you're blusnin'. Ent you 

never had love in the afternoon ? Ask Jimmy then. 
jenny [rising to get sweet). Shut you up gal and get on wi' your 

ice-cream. It's strawberry flavour. Want some more 

James ? 
jimmy (taking it in the middle of lacing up boots). Yes please, 

vanilla please. (Eating) Good cream ent it ? Made from the 

white milk of a Jersey cow. 
beatie. This is good too — made from pink milk ent it ? 

(Pause.) 
jimmy. Yearp ! (Pause.) Come from a pink cow ! 

(Pause. They are all enjoying the cream.) 
jenny (eating). You remember Dickie Smart, Beatie? 
beatte (eating). Who? 
jenny (eating). We had a drink wi' him in the Storks when 

you was down last. 
beatie (eating). Yearp. 
jenny (eating). Well, he got gored by a bull last Thursday. 

His left ear was nearly off, his knee were gored, his ribs 

bruised, and the ligaments of his legs torn. 

89 



ACT ONE 

(Pause as they finish eating.) 

beatie (euphemistically). He had a rough time then ! 

jenny. Yearp. (To Jimmy) You off now? 

jimmy. Mm. 

(Jenny collects dishes.) 

beatie. Still got your allotment Jimmy ? 

jimmy. Yearp. 

beatie. Bit heavy going this weather. 

jimmy. That ent too bad just yit — few more weeks an' the 
old mowld '11 cling. 

beatie. Watcha got this year? 

jimmy. Had spuds, carrots, cabbages you know. Beetroot, 
lettuces, onions, and peas. But me runners let me down 
this year though. 

jenny. I don't go much on them old things. 

beatie. You got a fair o wle turn then ? 

jimmy. Yearp. 

(Jimmy starts to sharpen a reap hook.) 

beatie (jumping up). I'll help you wash. 

jenny. That's all right gal. 

beatie. Where's the cloth? 

jenny. Here 'tis. 

(Beatie helps collect dishes from table and proceeds to help 
wash up. This is a silence that needs organizing. Throughout 
the play there is no sign of intense living from any of the 
characters — Beatie'5 bursts are the exception. They 
continue in a routine rural manner. The day comes, one 
sleeps at night, there is always the winter, the spring, the 
autumn, and the summer — little amazes them. They talk in 
fits and starts mainly as a sort of gossip, and they talk 
quickly too, enacting as though for an audience what they say. 
Their sense of humour is keen and dry. They show no 
affection for each other — though this does not mean they 
would not be upset were one of them to die. The silences are 

90 



ROOTS 

important — as important as the way they speak, if we are to 
know them.) 
jenny. What about that strike in London ? Waas London like 

wi'out the buses ? 
beatie. Lovely ! No noise — and the streets, you should see 

the streets, flowing with people — the city looks human. 
jimmy. They wanna call us Territorials out — we'd soon break 

the strike. 
beatie. That's a soft thing for a worker to say for his mates. 
jimmy. Soft be buggered, soft you say? What they earnin' 

those busmen, what they earnin'? And what's the farm 

worker's wage? Do you know it gal? 
beatie. Well, let the farm workers go on strike too then ! It 

don't help a farm labourer if a busman don't go on strike 

do it now ? 
jenny. You know they've got a rise though. Father Bryant's 

go up by six and six a week as a pigman, and Frank goes 

up seven 'n' six a week for driving a tractor. 
jimmy. But you watch the Hall sack some on 'em. 
jenny. Thaas true Beatie. They're such sods, honest to God 

they are. Every time there's bin a rise someone get sacked. 

Without fail. You watch it — you ask father Bryant when 

you get home, ask him who's bin sacked since the rise. 
beatie. One person they 'ont sack is him though. They 'ont 

find many men 'd tend to pigs seven days a week and stay 

up the hours he do. 
jenny. Bloody fool ! [Pause) Did Jimmy tell you he've bin 

chosen for the Territorials' Jubilee in London this year ? 
beatie. What's this then? What'll you do there? 
jimmy. Demonstrate and parade wi' arms and such like. 
beatie. Won't do you any good. 
jimmy. Don't you reckon? Gotta show we can defend the 

country you know. Demonstrate arms and you prevent 

war. 

91 



ACT ONE 

beatie (she has finished wiping up). Won't demonstrate any- 
thing bor. (Goes to undo her case.) Present for the house ! 
Have a hydrogen bomb fall on you and you'll find them 
things silly in your hands. (Searches for other parcels.) 

jimmy. So you say gal? So you say? That'll frighten them 
other buggers though. 

beatie. Frighten yourself y' mean. (Finds parcels.) Presents for 
the kid. 

jimmy. And what do you know about this all of a sudden? 

jenny (revealing a tablecloth). Thank you very much Beatie. 
Just what I need. 

beatie. You're not interested in defending your country 
Jimmy, you just enjoy playing soldiers. 

jimmy. What did I do in the last war then — sing in the 
trenches ? 

beatie (explaining — not trying to get one over on him). Ever 
heard of Chaucer, Jimmy ? 

JIMMY. No. 

beatie. Do you know the M.P. for this constituency? 

jimmy. What you drivin' at gal — don't give me no riddles. 

beatie. Do you know how the British Trade Union Move- 
ment started? And do you believe in strike action? 

jimmy. No to both those. 

beatie. What you goin' to war to defend then ? 

jimmy (he is annoyed now). Beatie — you bin away from us a 
long time now — you got a boy who's educated an' that 
and he's taught you a lot maybe. But don't you come 
pushin' ideas across at us — we're all right as we are. You 
can come when you like an' welcome but don't bring no 
discussion of politics in the house wi' you 'cos that'll only 
cause trouble. I'm telling you. (He goes off.) 

jenny. Blust gal, if you hevn't touched him on a sore spot. 
He live for them Territorials he do — that's half his life. 

beatie (she is upset now). What's he afraid of talking for? 

92 



ROOTS 

jenny. He ent afraid of talking Beatie — blust he can do that, 
gal. 

beatie. But not talk, not really talk, not use bridges. I sit with 
Ronnie and his friends sometimes and I listen to them talk 
about things and you know I've never heard half of the 
words before. 

jenny. Don't he tell you what they mean ? 

beatie. I get annoyed when he keep tellin' me — and he want 
me to ask. (Imitates him half-heartedly now). 'Always ask, 
people love to tell you what they know, always ask and 
people will respect you.' 

jenny. And do you ? 

beatie. No ! I don't ! An' you know why ? Because I'm stub- 
born, I'm like Mother, I'm stubborn. Somehow I just can't 
bring myself to ask, and you know what ? I go mad when 
I listen to them. As soon as they start to talk about things 
I don't know about or I can't understand I get mad. They 
sit there, casually talking, and suddenly they turn on you, 
abrupt. 'Don't you think?' they say. Like at school, pick 
on you and ask a question you ent ready for. Sometimes I 
don't say anything, sometimes I go to bed or leave the 
room. Like Jimmy — just like Jimmy. 

jenny. And what do Ronnie say to that then ? 

beatie. He get mad too. 'Why don't you ask me woman, for 
God's sake why don't you ask me? Aren't I dying to tell 
you about things? Only ask!' 

jenny. And he's goin' to marry you ? 

beatie. Why not? 

jenny. Well I'm sorry gal, you mustn't mind me saying this, 
but it don't seem to me like you two got much in common, 

beatie (loudly). It's not true ! We're in love ! 

jenny. Well, you know. 

beatie (softly). No, I don't know. I won't know till he come 
here. From the first day I went to work as waitress in the 

93 



ACT ONE 

Dell Hotel and saw him working in the kitchen I fell in 
love — and I thought it was easy. I thought everything was 
easy. I chased him for three months with compliments and 
presents until I finally give myself to him. He never said 
he love me nor I didn't care but once he had taken me he 
seemed to think he was responsible for me and I told him 
no different. I'd make him love me I thought. I didn't 
know much about him except he was different and used to 
write most of the time. And then he went back to London 
and I followed him there. I've never moved far from 
home but I did for him and he felt all the time he couldn't 
leave me and I didn't tell him no different. And then I got 
to know more about him. He was interested in all the 
things I never even thought about. About politics and art 
and all that, and he tried to teach me. He's a socialist and he 
used to say you couldn't bring socialism to a country by 
making speeches, but perhaps you could pass it on to 
someone who was near you. So I pretended I was interested 
— but I didn't understand much. All the time he's trying 
to teach me but I can't take it Jenny. And yet, at the same 
time, I want to show I'm willing. I'm not used to learning. 
Learning was at school and that's finished with. 

jenny. Blust gal, you don't seem like you're going to be happy 
then. Like I said. 

beatie. But I love him. 

jenny. Then you're not right in the head then. 

beatie. I couldn't have any other life now. 

jenny. Well, I don't know and that's a fact. 

beatie (playfully mocking her). Well I don't know and that's a 
fact ! (Suddenly) Come on gal, I'll teach you how to bake 
some pastries. 

jenny. Pastries? 

beatie. Ronnie taught me. 

jenny. Oh, you learnt that much then ? 

94 



ROOTS 

beatie. But he don't know. I always got annoyed when he 

tried to teach me to cook as well — Christ ! I had to know 

something — but it sank in all the same. 
(By this time it has become quite dark and Jenny proceeds to 
light a tilly lamp) 
jenny. You didn't make it easy then ? 
beatie. Oh don't you worry gal, it'll be all right once we're 

married. Once we're married and I got babies I won't need 

to be interested in half the things I got to be interested in 

now. 
jenny. No you won't will you ! Don't need no education for 

babies. 
beatie. Nope. Babies is babies — you just have 'em. 
jenny. Little sods ! 

beatie. You gonna hev another Jenny ? 
jenny. Well, course I am. What you on about? Think Jimmy 

don't want none of his own ? 
beatie. He's a good man Jenny. 
jenny. Yearp. 
beatie. Not many men 'd marry you after you had a baby. 

JENNY. No. 

beatie. He didn't ask you any questions ? Who was the father ? 

Nor nothing ? 
jenny. No. 

beatie. You hevn't told no one hev you Jenny ? 
jenny. No, that I hevn't. 
beatie. Well, that's it gal, don't you tell me then ! 

(By this time the methylated spirit torch has burned out and 

Jenny has finished pumping the tilly lamp and we are in 

brightness.) 

jenny (severely). Now Beatie, stop it. Every time you come 

home you ask me that question and I hed enough. It's 

finished with and over. No one don't say nothing and no 

one know. You hear me ? 

95 



ACT ONE 

beatie. Are you in love with Jimmy ? 

jenny. Love ? I don't believe in any of that squit — we just got 

married, an' that's that. 
beatie (suddenly looking around the room at the general chaos). 

Jenny Beales, just look at this house. Look at it ! 
jenny. I'm looking. What's wrong? 
beatie. Let's clean it up. 
jenny. Clean what up? 

beatie. Are you going to live in this house all your life? 
jenny. You gonna buy us another? 
beatie. Stuck out here in the wilds with only ole Stan Mann 

and his missus as a neighbour and sand pits all around. 

Every time it rain look you're stranded. 
jenny. Jimmy don't earn enough for much more 'n we got. 
beatie. But it's so untidy. 
jenny. You don' wan' me bein' like sister Susan do you? 

'Cos you know how clean she is don' you — she's so 

bloody fussy she's gotten to polishing the brass overflow 

pipe what leads out from the lavatory. 
beatie. Come on gal, let's make some order anyway — I love 

tidying up. 
jenny. What about the pastries? Pastries? Oh my sainted 

aunt, the bread! (Dashes to the oven and brings out a most 

beautiful-looking plaited loaf of bread. Admiring it) Well, no 

one wanna complain after that. Isn't that beautiful Beatie ? 
beatie. I could eat it now. 
jenny. You hungry again ? 
beatie (making an attack upon the clothes that are lying around). 

I'm always hungry again. Ronnie say I eat more'n I need. 

'If you get fat woman I'll leave you — without even a 

discussion !' 
jenny (placing bread on large oval plate to put away). Well, there 

ent nothin' wrong in bein' fat. 
beatie. You ent got no choice gal. (Seeing bike) A bike! 

96 



ROOTS 

What's a bike doin' in a livin' room — I'm putting it 
outside. 

jenny. Jimmy 'ont know where it is. 

beatie. Don't be daft, you can't miss a bike. (Wheels it outside 
and calls from there.) Jenny ! Start puttin' the clothes away. 

jenny. Blust gal, I ent got nowhere to put them. 

beatie (from outside). You got drawers — you got cupboards. 

jenny. They're full already. 

beatlb (entering — energy sparks from her). Come here — let's 
look. (Looks.) Oh, go away — you got enough room for 
ten families. You just bung it all in with no order, that's 
why. Here — help me. 

(They drag out all manner of clothes from the cupboard and 
begin to fold them up.) 

beatie. How's my Frankie and Pearl ? 

jenny. They're all right. You know she and Mother don't 
talk to each other ? 

beatie. What, again ? Who's fault is it this time ? 

jenny. Well, Mother she say it's Pearl's fault and Pearl she say 
it's Mother. 

beatie. Well, they wanna get together quick and find whose 
fault it is 'cos I'm going to call the whole family together 
for tea to meet Ronnie. 

jenny. Well, Susan and Mother don't talk neither so you got 
a lot of peace-making to do. 

beatie. Well go t'hell, what's broken them two up ? 

jenny. Susan hev never bin struck on her mother, you know 
that don't you — well, it seems that Susan bought some- 
thing off the club from Pearl and Pearl give it to Mother 
and Mother sent it to Susan through the fishmonger what 
live next door her in the council houses. And of course 
Susan were riled 'cos she didn't want her neighbours to 
know that she bought anything off the club. So they don't 
speak. 

97 



ACT ONE 

beatie. Kids ! It make me mad. 

jenny. And you know what 'tis with Pearl don't you — it's 

'cos Mother hev never thought she was good enough for 

her son Frankie. 
beatie. No more she wasn't neither ! 
jenny. What's wrong wi' her then ? I get on all right. 
beatie. Nothing's wrong wi' her, she just wasn't good enough 

for our Frankie, that's all. 
jenny. Who's being small-minded now ? 
beatie. Always wantin' more'n he can give her. 
jenny. An' I know someone else who always wanted more'n 

she got. 
beatie (sulkily). It's not the same thing. 
jenny. Oh yes 'tis. 
beatie. 'Tent. 
jenny. 'Tis my gal. (Mimicking the child Beatie) I wan' a 

'nana, a 'nana, a 'nana. Frankie's got my 'nana, 'nana, 'nana. 
beatie. Well, I liked bananas. 
jenny. You liked anything you could get your hands on and 

Mother used to give in to you 'cos you were the youngest. 

Me and Susan and Frankie never got nothing 'cos o' you 

— 'cept a clout round the ear. 
beatie. 'Tent so likely. You got everything and I got nothing. 
jenny. All we got was what we pinched out the larder and 

then you used to go and tell tales to Mother. 
beatie. I never did. 
jenny. Oh, didn't you my gal? Many's the time I'd've 

willingly strangled you — with no prayers — there you 

are, no prayers whatsoever. Strangled you till you was 

dead. 
beatie. Oh go on wi' you Jenny Beales. 

(By now they have finished folding the clothes and have put 
away most of the laundry and garments that have till this 
moment cluttered up the room. Beatie says 'There,' stands 

98 



ROOTS 

up and looks around, finds some coats sprawled helter-skelter, 
and hangs them up behind the door.) 
beatie. I'll buy you some coat hangers. 
jenny. You get me a couple o' coats to hang on 'em first 

please. 
beatie (looking around). What next. Bottles, jars, nicknacks, 

saucepans, cups, papers — everything anywhere. Look 

at it ! Come on ! 
(Beatie attempts to get these things either into their proper 
places or out of sight.) 
jenny. You hit this place like a bloody whirlwind you do, 

like a bloody whirlwind. Jimmy'll think he've come into 

the wrong house and I shan't be able to find a thing. 
beatie. Here, grab a broom. (She is now gurgling with sort of 

animal noises signifying excitement. Her joy is childlike.) 

How's Poppy ? 
jenny. Tight as ever. 
beatie. What won't he give you now ? 
jenny. 'Tent nothing wi' me gal. Nothing he do don't 

affect me. It's Mother I'm referring to. 
beatie. Don't he still give her much money? 
jenny. Money? She hev to struggle and skint all the time — 

all the time. Well it ent never bin no different from when 

we was kids hev it ? 
beatie. No. 
jenny. I tell you what. It wouldn't surprise me if Mother 

were in debt all the time, that it wouldn't. No. It wouldn't 

surprise me at all. 
beatie. Oh, never. 
jenny. Well, what do you say that for Beatie — do you know 

how much he allow her a week look ? 
beatie. Six pounds ? 
jenny. Six pound be buggered. Four pounds ten! An' she 

hev to keep house an buy her own clothes out of that. 

99 



ACT ONE 

beatie. Still, there's only two on 'em. 

jenny. You try keepin' two people in food for four pound 
ten. She pay seven an' six a week into Pearl's club for 
clothes, two and six she hev on the pools, and a shilling a 
week on the Labour Tote. [Suddenly) Blust! I forgot to 
say. Pearl won the Tote last week. 

beatie. A hundred pounds? 

jenny. A hundred pounds ! An ' ole Mrs Dyson what used to 
live Startson way, she come up second wi' five pounds and 
seventy. 

beatie. Well no one wrote me about it. 

jenny. 'Cos you never wrote no one else. 

beatie. What she gonna do wi' it — buy a TV ? 

jenny. TV? Blust no. You know she hevn't got electricity in 
that house. No, she say she's gonna get some clothes for 
the kids. 

[There is a sound now of a drunk old man approaching, and 

alongside of it the voice of Jimmy. The drunk is singing: 'I 

come from Bungay Town, I calls I Bungay Johnnie.') 

Well I go t'hell if that ent Stan Mann drunk again. And is 

that Jimmy wi' him? [Listens.) 

beatie. But I thought Stan Mann was paralysed. 

jenny. That don't stop him getting paralytic drunk. [Listens 
again.) That's Jimmy taking him into the house I bet. A 
fortune that man hev drunk away — a whole bleedin' 
fortune. Remember the fleet of cars he used to run and all 
that land he owned, and all them cattle he had and them 
fowl? Well, he've only got a few acres left and a few ole 
chickens. He drink it all away. Two strokes he've had from 
drinking and now he's paralysed down one side. But that 
don't stop him getting drunk — no it don't. 
(Jimmy enters and throws his jacket on the couch, takes off his 
hoots and gaiters, and smiles meanwhile.) 

jimmy. Silly ole bugger. 

100 



ROOTS 

jenny. I was just telling Beatie how he've drunk a fortune 
away hevn't he ? 

jimmy. He wanna drink a little more often and he'll be 
finished for good. 

jenny. Didn't he hev all them cows and cars and land Jimmy ? 
And didn't he drink it all away bit by bit ? 

jimmy. Silly ole sod don't know when to stop. 

jenny. I wished I had half the money he drink. 

jimmy. He messed his pants. 

jenny. He what? Well where was this then? 

jimmy. By the allotment. 

jenny. Well, what did you do then ? 

jimmy. He come up to me — 'course I knowed he were 
drunk the way he walk — he come up to me an' he say, 
"Evenin' Jimmy Beales, thaas a fine turnover you got 
there.' An' I say, 'Yearp 'tis.' An' then he bend down to 
pick a carrot from the ground an' then he cry, 'Oops, I 
done it again !' An' 'course, soon ever he say 'done it again' 
I knowed what'd happened. So I took his trousers down 
and ran the ole hose over him. 

beatie. Oh, Jimmy, you never did. 

jimmy. I did gal. I put the ole hose over him and brought him 
home along the fields with an ole sack around his waist. 

beatie. He'll catch his death. 

jimmy. Never — he's strong as an ox. 

jenny. What'd you do with his trousers and things? 

jimmy. Put it on the compost heap — good for the land ! 

(Now Stan Mann enters. He's not all that drunk. The cold 
water has sobered him a little. He is old — about seventy-five 
— and despite his slight stoop one can see he was a very strong 
upright man. He probably looks like everymans idea of a 
farmer — except that he wears no socks or boots at this 
moment and he hobbles on a stick.) 

stan. Sorry about that ole son. 

101 



ACT ONE 

jimmy. Don't you go worrying about that my manny — get 

you along to bed. 
jenny. Get some shoes on you too Stan, or you'll die of cold 

an d booze. 
stan [screwing up his eyes across the room). Is that you Jenny? 

Hello ole gal. How are you? 
jenny. It's you you wanna worry about now ole matey. I'm 

well enough. 
stan [screwing his eyes still more). Who's that next to you? 
jenny. Don't you recognize her? It's our Beatie, Stan. 
stan. Is that you Beatie? Well blust gal, you gotten fatter 

since I seen you last. You gonna be fat as Jenny here? 

Come on over an' let's look at you. 
beatie [approaching). Hello Stan Mann, how are you? 
stan [looking her up and down). Well enough gal, well enough. 

You married yit? 
beatie. No. 

stan. You bin courtin' three years. Why ent you married yit ? 
beatie [slightly embarrassed). We ent sure yit. 
stan. You ent sure you say? What ent you sure of? You 

know how to do it don't you ? 
jenny. Go on wi' you to bed Stan Mann. 
stan. Tell your boy he don't wanna waste too much time or 

I'll be hevin' yer myself for breakfast — on a plate. 
jenny. Stan Mann, I'm sendin' you to your bed — go on now, 

ofFwi' you, you can see Beatie in the mornin'. 
stan (as he is ushered out — to Beatie). She's fat ent she? I'm 

not sayin' she won't do mind, but she's fat. [As he goes out) 

All right ole sweetheart, I'm goin'. I'm just right for bed. 

Did you see the new bridge they're building ? It's a rum 

ole thing isn't it . . . [out of sound) 
jimmy. Well, I'm ready for bed. 
beatie. I can't bear sick men. They smell. 
jimmy. Ole Stan's all right — do anythin' for you. 

102 



ROOTS 

beatie. I couldn't look after one you know. 

jimmy. Case of hevin' to sometimes. 

beatie. Ronnie's father's paralysed like that. I can't touch him. 

jimmy. Who see to him then ? 

beatie. His mother. She wash him, change him, feed him. 

Ronnie help sometimes. I couldn't though. Ronnie say, 

'Christ, woman, I hope you aren't around when I'm ill/ 

(Shudders.) Ole age terrify me. 
jimmy. Where you sleepin' tonight gal ? 
beatie. On the couch in the front room I suppose. 
jimmy. You comfortable sleepin' on that ole thing? You 

wanna sleep with Jenny while you're here ? 
beatie. No thanks, Jimmy. (She is quite subdued now) I'm all 

right on there. 
jimmy. Right, then I'm off. (Looking around) Where's the 

Evening News I brought in ? 
jenny (entering). You off to bed? 
jimmy. Yearp. Reckon I've had 'nough of tins ole day. 

Where's my News? 
jenny. Where d'you put it Beatie? 
jimmy (suddenly seeing the room). Blust, you movin' out? 
beatie. Here you are Jimmy Beales. (Hands him paper.) It's all 

tidy now. 
jimmy. So I see. Won't last long though will it? 'Night. (Goes 

to bed.) 
jenny. Well I'm ready for my bed too — how about you 

Beatie? 
beatie. Yearp. 
jenny (taking a candle in a stick and lighting it). Here, take this 

with you. Your bed's made. Want a drink before you 

turn in? 
beatie. No thanks gal. 
jenny (picking up tilly lamp and making towards one door). Right 

then. Sleep well gal. 

103 



ACT ONE 

beatie (^orn^ to other door with candle). Good night Jenny. (She 
pauses at her door. Loud whispers from now on.) Hey Jenny. 

jenny. What is it? 

beatie. I'll bake you some pastries when I get to Mother's. 

jenny. Father won't let you use his electricity for me, don't 
talk daft. 

beatie. I'll get Mother on to him. It'll be all right. Your ole 
ovens weren't big 'nough anyways. Good night. 

jenny. Good night. 

beatie (an afterthought). Hey Jenny. 

jenny. What now? 

beatie. Did I tell you I took up painting ? 

jenny. Painting? 

beatie. Yes — on cardboard and canvases with brushes. 

jenny. What kind of painting ? 

beatie. Abstract painting — designs and patterns and such like. 
I can't do nothing else. I sent two on 'em home. Show you 
when you come round — if Mother hevn't thrown them 
out. 

jenny. You're an artist then ? 

beatie. Yes. Good night. 

jenny. Good night. 

(They enter their bedrooms, leaving the room in darkness. 1 
Perhaps we see only the faint glow of moonlight from outside, 
and then) 

THE CURTAIN FALLS 



1 It might be better for Jenny to have previously made up Beatie' s bed in 
the couch on the set. Then Beatie would not have to leave the stage at all. 

104 



ACT TWO 

Scene i 

Two days have passed. Beatie will arrive at her own home, the 
home of her parents. This is a tied cottage on a main road between 
two large villages. It is neat and ordinary inside. We can see a large 
kitchen — where most of the living is done — and attached to it is a 
large larder; also part of the front room and a piece of the garden 
where some washing is hanging. 

Mrs Bryant is a short, stout woman of fifty. She spends most of 
the day on her own, and consequently when she has a chance to 
speak to anybody she says as much as she can as fast as she can. The 
only people she sees are the tradesmen, her husband, the family when 
they pop in occasionally. She speaks very loudly all the time so that 
her friendliest tone sounds aggressive, and she manages to dramatize 
the smallest piece of gossip into something significant. Each piece of 
gossip is a little act done with little looking at the person to whom it 
is addressed. At the moment she is at the door leading to the garden, 
looking for the cat. 

mrs bryant. Cossie, Cossie, Cossie, Cossie, Cossie, Cossie ! 
Here Cossie! Food Cossie! Cossie, Cossie, Cossie! Blust 
you cat, where the hell are you. Oh hell on you then, I ent 
wastin' my time wi' you now. 

(She returns to the kitchen and thence the larder, from which 
she emerges with some potatoes. These she starts peeling. 
Stan Mann appears round the back door. He has a handker- 
chief to his nose and is blowing vigorously, as vigorously as 
his paralysis will allow. Mrs Bryant looks up, but con- 
tinues her peeling.) 
stan. Rum thing to git a cold, in summer, what you say 

Daphne ? 
mrs bryant. What'd you have me say my manny. Sit you 
down bor and rest a bit. Shouldn't wear such daf ' clothes. 

105 



ACT TWO 

stan. Daf ' clothes? Blust woman ! I got on half a cow's hide, 
what you sayin' ! Where's the gal ? 

mrs bryant. Beatie ? She 'ent come yit. Didn't you see her? 

stan. Hell, I was up too early for her. She always stay the 
week-end wi' Jenny 'fore comin' home? 

mrs bryant. Most times. 
(Stan sneezes.) 
What you doin' up this way wi' a cold like that then ? Get 
you home to bed. 

stan. Just come this way to look at the vicarage. Stuff's 
comin' up for sale soon. 

mrs bryant. You still visit them things then? 

stan. Yearp. Pass the ole time away. Pass the ole time. 

mrs bryant. Time drag heavy then? 

stan. Yearp. Time drag heavy. She do that. Time drag so 
slow, I get to thinkin' it's Monday when it's still Sunday. 
Still, I had my day gal I say. Yearp. I had that all right. 

mrs bryant. Yearp. You had that an' a bit more ole son. I 
shant grumble if I last as long as you. 

stan. Yearp. I hed my day. An' I'd do it all the same again, 
you know that ? Do it all the same I would. 

mrs bryant. Blust ! All your drinkin' an' that? 

stan. Hell ! Thaas what kep' me goin' look. Almost anyways. 
None o' them young 'uns'll do it, hell if they will. There 
ent much life in the young 'uns. Bunch o' weak-kneed 
ruffians. None on 'em like livin' look, none on 'em! You 
read in them ole papers what go on look, an' you wonder 
if they can see. You do ! Wonder if they got eyes to look 
around them. Think they know where they live? 'Course 
they don't, they don't you know, not one. Blust! the 
winter go an' the spring come on after an' they don't see 
buds an' they don't smell no breeze an' they don't see gals, 
an' when they see gals they don't know whatta do wi' 'em. 
They don't ! 

106 



ROOTS 

MRS bryant. Oh hell, they know that all right. 

stan. Gimme my young days an' I'd show 'em. Public 

demonstrations I'd give ! 
mrs bryant. Oh shut you up Stan Mann. 
stan. Just gimme young days again Daphne Bryant an' I'd 

mount you. But they 'ont come again will they gal ? 
mrs bryant. That they 'ont. My ole days working in the 
fields with them other gals, thems 'ont come again, either. 
stan. No, they 'out that ! Rum ole things the years ent they ? 
(Pause.) Them young 'uns is all right though. Long as they 
don't let no one fool them, long as they think it out their- 
selves. (Sneezes and coughs.) 
mrs bryant (moving to help him up). Now get you back home 
Stan Mann. (Good-naturedly) Blust, I aren't hevin' no dead 
'uns on me look. Take a rum bor, take a rum an' a drop 
o' hot milk and get to bed. What's Mrs Mann thinking of 
lettin' you out like this. 

(She pulls the coat round the old man and pushes him off. He 

goes off mumbling and she returns, also mumbling, to . her 

peeling.) 

stan. She's a good gal, she's right 'nough, she don't think I 

got it this bad. I'll pull this ole scarf round me. Hed this 

scarf a long time, hed it since I started wi' me cars. She 

bought it me. Lasted a long time. Shouldn't need it this 

weather though . . . (Exits.) 

mrs bryant {mumbling same time as Stan). Go on, off you go. 

Silly ole bugger, runnin' round with a cold like that. 

Don't know what 'e's doin' half the time. Poor ole man. 

Cossie? Cossie? That you Cossie? (Looks through door into 

front room and out of window at Stan.) Poor ole man. 

(After peeling some seconds she turns the radio on, turning the 

dial knob through all manner of stations and back again until 

she finds some very loud dance music which she leaves blaring 

on. Audible to us, but not to Mrs Bryant, is the call of 

107 



ACT TWO 

'Yoo-hoo Mother, yoo-hoo'. Beatie appears round the 
garden and peers into the kitchen. Mrs Bryant jumps.) 

mrs bryant. Blust, you made me jump. 

beatie (toning radio down). Can't you hear it? Hello, Mother. 
(Kisses her.) 

mrs bryant. Well, you've arrived then. 

beatie. Didn't you get my card? 

mrs bryant. Came this morning. 

beatie. Then you knew I'd arrive. 

mrs bryant. 'Course I did. 

beatie. My things come ? 

mrs bryant. One suitcase, one parcel in brown paper — 

beatie. My paintings. 

mrs bryant. And one other case. 

beatie. My pick-up. D'you see it? 

mrs bryant. I hevn't touched a thing. 

beatie. Bought myself a pick-up on the H.P. 

mrs bryant. Don't you go telling that to Pearl. 

beatie. Why not ? 

mrs bryant. She'll wanna know why you didn't buy off her 
on the club. 

beatie. Well, hell, Mother, I weren't gonna hev an ole pick-up 
sent me from up north somewhere when we lived next 
door to a gramophone shop. 

mrs bryant. No. Well, what bus you come on — the half- 
past-ten one ? 

beatie. Yearp. Picked it up on the ole bridge near Jenny's. 

mrs bryant. Well I looked for you on the half-past-nine bus 
and you weren't on that so I thought to myself I bet she 
come on the half-past-ten and you did. You see ole Stan 
Mann? 

beatie. Was that him just going up the road? 

mrs bryant. Wearin' an ole brown scarf, that was him. 

beatie. I see him ! Just as I were cornin' off the bus. Blust ! 

108 



ROOTS 

Jimmy Beales give him a real dowsin' down on his allot- 
ment 'cos he had an accident. 

mrs bryant. What, another ? 

beatie. Yearp. 

mrs bryant. Poor ole man. Thaas what give him that cold 
then. He come in here sneezin' fit to knock hisself down. 

beatie. Poor ole bugger. Got any tea Ma? I'm gonna unpack. 
(Beatie goes into front room with case. We see her take out 
frocks, which she -puts on hangers, and underwear and blouses, 
which she puts on couch.) 

mrs bryant. Did you see my flowers as you come in ? Got 
some of my hollyhocks still flowering. Creeping up the 
wall they are — did you catch a glimpse on 'em ? And my 
asters and geraniums ? Poor ole Joe Simonds gimme those 
afore he died. Lovely geraniums they are. 

beatie. Yearp. 

mrs bryant. When's Ronnie coming ? 

beatie. Saturday week — an' Mother, I'm heving all the 
family along to meet him when he arrive so you patch 
your rows wi' them. 

mrs bryant. What you on about gal ? What rows wi' them ? 

beatie. You know full well what rows I mean — them ones 
you hev wi' Pearl and Susan. 

mrs bryant. 'Tent so likely. They hev a row wi' me gal but 
I give 'em no heed, that I don't. [Hears van pass on road.) 
There go Sam Martin's fish van. He'll be calling along here 
in an hour. 

beatie (entering with very smart dress). Like it Mother? 

mrs bryant. Blust gal, that's a good 'un ent it ! Where d'you 
buy that then ? 

beatie. Swan and Edgar's. 

mrs bryant. Did Ronnie choose it ? 

beatie. Yearp. 

mrs bryant. He've got good taste then. 

109 



ACT TWO 

beatie. Yearp. Now listen Mother, I don't want any on you 
to let me down. When Ronnie come I want him to see 
we're proper. I'll buy you another bowl so's you don't 
wash up in the same one as you wash your hands in and 
I'll get some more tea cloths so's you 'ont use the towels. 
And no swearin'. 

mrs bryant. Don't he swear then ? 

beatie. He swear all right, only I don't want him to hear you 
swear. 

mrs bryant. Hev you given it up then ? 

beatie. Mother, I've never swore. 

mrs bryant. Go to hell, listen to her ! 

beatie. I never did, now ! Mother, I'm telling you, listen to 
me. Ronnie's the best thing I've ever had and I've tried 
hard for three years to keep hold of him. I don't care what 
you do when he's gone but don't show me up when he's 
here. 

mrs bryant. Speak to your father gal. 

beatie. Father too. I don't want Ronnie to think I come from 
a small-minded family. 'I can't bear mean people,' he say. 
'I don't care about their education, I don't care about their 
past as long as their minds are large and inquisitive, as 
long as they're generous.' 

mrs bryant. Who say that ? 

beatie. Ronnie. 

mrs bryant. He talk like that ? 

beatie. Yearp. 

mrs bryant. Sounds like a preacher. 

beatie (standing on a chair). 'I don't care if you call me a 
preacher, I've got something to say and I'm going to say 
it. I don't care if you don't like being told things — we've 
come to a time when you've got to say this is right and this 
is wrong. God in heaven, have we got to be wet all the 
time? Well, have we?' Christ, Mother, you've got them 

110 



ROOTS 



ole wasps still flying around. (She waves her arms in the air 
flaying the wasps.) September and. you've still got wasps. 
Owee ! shoo-shoo ! (In the voice of her childhood) Mammy, 
Mammy, take them ole things away. I doesn't like the — 
ooh ! Nasty things. 

(Beatie jumps off chair and picks up a coat hanger. Now 
both she and her mother move stealthily around the room 
'hunting' wasps. Occasionally Mrs Bryant strikes one dead 
or Beatie spears one against the wall. Mrs Bryant con- 
ducts herself matter-of-fact-like but Beatie makes a fiendish 
game of it.) 
mrs bryant. They're after them apples on that tree outside. 
Go on ! Off wi' you ! Outside now ! There — that's got 
'em out, but I bet the buggers'll be back in a jiffy look. 
beatie. Oh yes, an' I want to have a bath. 
mrs bryant. When d'you want that then ? 
beatie. This morning. 
mrs bryant. You can't hev no bath this morning, that copper 

won't heat up till after lunch. 
beatie. Then I'll bake the pastries for Jenny this morning and 
you can put me water on now. (She returns to sort her 
clothes.) 
mrs bryant. I'll do that now then. I'll get you the soft water 
from the tank. 

(Mrs Bryant now proceeds to collect bucket and move back 

and forth between the garden out of view and the copper in the 

kitchen. She fills the copper with about three buckets of water 

and then lights the fire underneath it. In between buckets she 

chats.) 

(Off — as she hears lorry go by) There go Danny Oakley to 

market. (She returns with first bucket.) 

beatie. Mother ! I dreamt I died last night and heaven were at 

the bottom of a pond. You had to jump in and sink and 

you know how afeared I am of water. It was full of film 

111 



ACT TWO 

stars and soldiers and there were two rooms. In one room 
they was playing skiffle and — and — I can't remember 
what were goin' on in the other. Now who was God; I 
can't remember. It was someone we knew, a she. (Returns 
to unpacking.) 

mrs bryant (entering with second bucket; automatically). Yearp. 
(Pause.) You hear what happened to the headache doctor's 
patient ? You know what they say about him — if you've 
got a headache you're all right but if you've got something 
more you've had it ! Well he told a woman not to worry 
about a lump she complained of under her breast and you 
know what that were ? That turned out to be thrombosis ! 
There ! Thrombosis ! She had that breast off. Yes, she did. 
Had to hev it cut off. (Goes for next bucket.) 

beatie (automatically). Yearp. (She appears from front room with 
two framed paintings. She sets them up and admires them. They 
are primitive designs in bold masses, rather well-balanced 
shapes and bright poster colours — red, black, and yellow — see 
Dusty Bicker's work.) Mother ! Did I write and tell you I've 
took up painting? I started five months ago. Working in 
gouache. Ronnie says I'm good. Says I should carry on 
and maybe I can sell them for curtain designs. 'Paint girl,' 
he say. 'Paint ! The world is full of people who don't do 
the things they want so you paint and give us all hope !' 
(Mrs Bryant enters.) 

beatie. Like 'em ? 

mrs bryant (looks at them a second). Good colours ent they. 
(She is unmoved and continues to empty a third bucket while 
Beatie returns paintings to other room.) Yes gal, I ent got no 
row wi' Pearl but I ask her to change my Labour Tote man 
'cos I wanted to give the commission to Charlie Gorleston 
and she didn't do it. Well, if she can be like that I can be 
like that too. You gonna do some baking you say? 

beatie (enters from front room putting on a pinafore and carrying a 

112 



ROOTS 

parcel). Right now. Here y'are Daphne Bryant, present 
for you. I want eggs, flour, sugar, and marg. I'm gonna 
bake a sponge and give it frilling. (Goes to larder to collect 
things.) 
mrs bryant (unpacking parcel; it is a pinafore). We both got one 
now. 

(Mrs Bryant continues to peel potatoes as Beatie proceeds 
to separate four eggs, the yolks of which she starts whipping 
with sugar. She sings meanwhile a ringing folk song.) 

BEATIE. 

Oh a dialogue I'll sing you as true as me life. 
Between a coal owner and poor pitman's wife 
As she was a- walking along the highway 
She met a coal owner and to him did say 
Derry down, down, down Derry down. 
Whip the eggs till they're light yellow he says. 
mrs bryant. Who says ? 
beatie. Ronnie. 

Good morning Lord Firedamp the good woman said 
I'll do you no harm sir so don't be afraid 
If you'd been where I'd been for most of my life 
You wouldn't turn pale at a poor pitman's wife, 
Singing down, down, down Derry down. 
mrs bryant. What song's that? 
beatie. A coalmining song. 

mrs bryant. I tell you what I reckon' s a good song, that 'I'll 
wait for you in the heavens blue'. I reckon that's a lovely 
song I do. Jimmy Samson he sing that. 
beatie. It's like twenty other songs, it don't mean anything 

and it's sloshy and sickly. 
mrs bryant. Yes, I reckon that's a good song that. 
beatie (suddenly). Listen Mother, let me see if I can explain 
something to you. Ronnie always say that's the point of 
knowing people. 'It's no good having friends who scratch 

113 



ACT TWO 

each other's back,' he say. 'The excitement in knowing 
people is to hand on what you know and to learn what you 
don't know. Learn from me,' he say, 'I don't know much 
but learn what I know.' So let me try and explain to you 
what he explain to me. 
mrs bryant (on hearing a bus). There go the half-past-eleven 
bus to Diss — blust that's early. (Puts spuds in saucepan on 
oven and goes to collect runner beans, which she prepares.) 
beatie. Mother, I'm talking to you. Blust woman it's not 
often we get together and really talk, it's nearly always me 
listening to you telling who's dead. Just listen a second. 
mrs bryant. Well go on gal, but you always take so long to 

say it. 
beatie. What are the words of that song ? 
mrs bryant. I don't know all the words. 
beatie. I'll tell you. 
(Recites them.) 

I'll wait for you in the heavens blue 
As my arms are waiting now. 
Please come to me and I'll be true 
My love shall not turn sour. 
I hunger, I hunger, I cannot wait longer, 
My love shall not turn sour. 
There ! Now what do that mean ? 
mrs bryant (surprised). Well, don't you know what that 

mean? 
beatie. I mean what do they do to you ? How do the words 
affect you ? Are you moved ? Do you find them beautiful ? 
mrs bryant. Them's as good words as any. 
beatie. But do they make you feel better ? 
mrs bryant. Blust gal ! That ent meant to be a laxative ! 
beatie. I must be mad to talk with you. 
mrs bryant. Besides it's the tune I like. Words never mean 
anything. 

114 



ROOTS 

beatie. All right, the tune then ! What does that do to you ? 
Make your belly go gooey, your heart throb, make your 
head spin with passion ? Yes, passion, Mother, know what 
it is ? Because you won't find passion in that third-rate song, 
no you won't ! 

mrs bryant. Well all right gal, so it's third-rate you say. 
Can you say why ? What make that third-rate and them frilly 
bits of opera and concert first-rate? 'Sides, did I write that 
song ? Beatie Bryant, you do go up and down in your spirits, 
and I don't know what's gotten into you gal, no I don't. 

beatie. I don't know either, Mother. I'm worried about 
Ronnie I suppose. I have that same row with him. I ask 
him exactly the same questions — what make a pop song 
third-rate. And he answer and I don't know what he talk 
about. Something about registers, something about com- 
mercial world blunting our responses. 'Give yourself time 
woman,' he say. 'Time ! You can't learn how to live over- 
night. I don't even know,' he say, 'and half the world 
don't know but we got to try. Try,' he say, "cos we're still 
suffering from the shock of two world wars and we don't 
know it. Talk,' he say, 'and look and listen and think and 
ask questions.' But Jesus ! I don't know what questions to 
ask or how to talk. And he gets so riled — and yet some- 
times so nice. 'It's all going up in flames,' he say, 'but I'm 
going to make bloody sure I save someone from the fire.' 

mrs bryant. Well I'm sure J don't know what he's on about. 
Turn to your baking gal look and get you done, Father'll 
be home for his lunch in an hour. 
(A faint sound of an ambulance is heard. Mrs Bryant looks 
up hut says nothing. Beatie turns to whipping the eggs 
again and Mrs Bryant to cleaning up the runner beans. 
Out of this pause Mrs Bryant begins to sing 'I'll wait for 
you in the heavens blue\ but on the second line she hums the 
tune incorrectly.) 

115 



ACT TWO 

beatie (laughs). No, no, hell Mother, it don't go like that. 

It's — 

(Beatie corrects her and in helping her mother she ends by 
singing the song, with some enthusiasm, to the end.) 
mrs bryant. Thank God you come home sometimes gal — 

you do bring a little life with you anyway. 
beatie. Mother, I ent never heard you express a feeling like 

that. 
mrs bryant (she is embarrassed) . The world don't want no 

feelings gal. (Footsteps are heard.) Is that your father home 

already ? 

(Mr Bryant appears at the back door and lays a bicycle 
against the wall. He is a small shrivelled man wearing 
denims, a peaked cap, boots, and gaiters. He appears to be in 
some pain.) 
beatie. Hello poppy Bryant. 
mr bryant. Hello Beatie. You're here then. 
mrs bryant. What are you home so early for ? 
mr bryant. The ole guts ache again. (Sits in armchair and 

grimaces.) 
mrs bryant. Well, what is it ? 
mr bryant. Blust woman, I don't know what 'tis n'more'n 

you, do I ? 
mrs bryant. Go to the doctor man I keep telling you. 
beatie. What is it father Bryant ? 
mrs bryant. He got guts ache. 
beatie. But what's it from? 
mr bryant. I've just said I don't know. 
mrs bryant. Get you to a doctor man, don't be so soft. You 

don't want to be kept from work do you? 
mr bryant. That I don't, no I don't. Hell, I just see ole Stan 

Mann picked up an' thaas upset me enough. 
mrs bryant. Picked up you say ? 
mr bryant. Well, didn't you hear the ambulance ? 

116 



ROOTS 

mrs bryant. There ! I hear it but I didn't say narthin'. Was 
that for Stan Mann then ? 

mr bryant. I was cycling along wi' Jack Stones and we see 
this here figure on the side o' the road there an' I say, thaas 
a rum shape in the road Jack, and he say, blust, that's ole 
Stan Mann from Heybrid, an' 'twere. 'Course soon ever he 
see what 'twere, he rushed off for 'n ambulance and I 
waited alongside Stan. 

beatie. But he just left here. 

mrs bryant. I see it comin'. He come in here an' I shoved 
him off home. Get you to bed and take some rum an' a 
drop o' hot milk, I tell him. 

beatie. Is he gonna die ? 

mr bryant. Wouldn't surprise me, that it wouldn't. Blust, he 
look done in. 

mrs bryant. Poor ole fellah. Shame though ent it ? 

mr bryant. When d'you arrive Beatie ? 

mrs bryant. She come in the half-past-ten bus. I looked for 
her on the nine-thirty bus and she weren't on that, so I 
thought to myself I bet she come on the half-past-ten. She 
did. 

mr bryant. Yearp. 

mrs bryant. You gonna stay away all day ? 

mr bryant. No I aren't. I gotta go back 'cos one of the ole 
sows is piggin'. 'Spect she'll be hevin' them in a couple of 
hours. (To Beatie) Got a sow had a litter o' twenty-two. 
(Picks up paper to read.) 

beatie. Twenty-two ? Oh Pop, can I come see this afternoon ? 

mr bryant. Yearp. 

mrs bryant. Thought you was hevin' a bath. 

beatie. Oh yes, I forgot. I'll come tomorrow then. 

mr bryant. They'll be there. What you doin' gal? 

mrs bryant. She's baking a sponge, now leave her be. 

mr bryant. Oh, you learnt something in London then. 

117 



ACT TWO 

beatie. Ronnie taught me. 

mr bryant. Well where is Ronnie then ? 

mrs bryant. He's comin' on Saturday a week an' the family's 

goin' to be here to greet him. 
mr bryant. All on 'em ? 

MRS BRYANT and BEATIE. All Oil 'em ! 

mr bryant. Well that'll be a rum gatherin' then. 
mrs bryant. And we've to be on our best behaviour. 
mr bryant. No cussin' and swearin' ? 

MRS BRYANT and BEATIE. No. 

mr bryant. Blust, I shan't talk then. 

(A young man, Mr Healey, appears round the garden — he 
is the farmer's son, and manager of the estate Bryant works 
for.) 
mrs bryant (seeing him first). Oh, Mr Healey, yes. Jack! It's 
Mr Healey. 
(Mr Bryant rises and goes to the door. Healey speaks in a 
firm, not unkind, but business-is-business voice. There is that 
apologetic threat even in his politeness.) 
mr healey. You were taken ill. 

mr bryant. It's all right, sir, only guts ache, won't be long 
goin'. The pigs is all seen to, just waiting for the ole sow 
to start. 
mr healey. What time you expecting it? 
mr bryant. Oh, she 'ont come afore two this afternoon, no 

she 'ont be much afore that. 
mr healey. You're sure you're well, Jack? I've been thinking 
that it's too much for you carting those pails round the 
yard. 
mr bryant. No, that ent too heavy, sir, 'course 'tent. You 
don't wanna worry, I'll be along after lunch. Just an ole 
guts ache that's all — seein' the doctor tonight — eat too 
fast probably. 
mr healey. If you're sure you're all right, then I'll put young 

118 



ROOTS 

Daniels off. You can manage without him now we've 

fixed the new pump in. 
MR bryant. I can manage, sir — 'course I can. 
MR healey [moving off outside). All right then, Jack. I'll be with 

you around two o'clock. I want to take the old one out of 

number three and stick her with the others in seventeen. 

The little ones won't need her, will they ? Then we'll have 

them sorted out tomorrow. 
mr bryant. That's right, sir, they can go on their own now, 

they can. I'll see to it tomorrow. 
mr healey. Right then, Jack. Oh — you hear Stan Mann 

died? 
mr bryant. He died already? But I saw him off in the ambu- 
lance no more'n half-hour ago. 
mr healey. Died on the way to hospital. Jack Stones told me. 

Lived in Heybrid, didn't he ? 
mr bryant. Alongside my daughter. 
mr healey [calling). Well, good morning, Mrs Bryant. 
mrs bryant [calling). Good morning, Mr Healey. 

[The two men nod to each other. Mr Healey goes off. 
Mr Bryant lingers a second.) 
mrs bryant [to Beatie). That was Mr Healey, the new young 

manager. 
beatie. I know it Mother. 
mr bryant [returning slowly). He's dead then. 
mrs bryant. Who ? Not Stan Mann ! 
mr bryant. Young Healey just tell me. 
mrs bryant. Well I go t'hell. An' he were just here look, just 

here alongside o' me not more'n hour past. 
mr bryant. Rum ent it ? 
beatie [weakly). Oh hell, I hate dying. 
mrs bryant. He were a good ole bor though. Yes he was. A 

good ole stick. There ! 
beatie. Used to ride me round on his horse, always full o' life 

119 



ACT TWO 

an' jokes. 'Tell your boy he wanna hurry up and marry 
you,' he say to me, 'or I'll hev you meself on a plate.' 

mrs bryant. He were a one for smut though. 

beatie. I was talkin' with him last night. Only last night he 
was tellin' me how he caught me pinchin' some goose- 
berries off his patch an' how he gimme a whole apron full 
and I went into one o' his fields near by an' ate the lot. 
'Blust,' he say, 'you had the ole guts ache,' an' he laugh, sat 
there laughin' away to hisself. 

mrs bryant. I can remember that. Hell, Jenny'll miss him — 
used always to pop in an' out o' theirs. 

beatie. Seem like the whole world gone suddenly dead don' 
it? 

mr bryant. Rum ent it ? 
(Silence.) 

mrs bryant. You say young Healey tell you that? He's a nice 
man Mr Healey is, yes he is, a good sort, I like him. 

beatie. Sound like he were threatening to sack Father; don't 
know about being nice. 

mr bryant. That's what I say see, get a rise and they start 
cutting down the men or the overtime. 

mrs bryant. The Union magazine's come. 

mr bryant. I don't want that ole thing. 

beatie. Why can't you do something to stop the sackings? 

mr bryant. You can't, you can't — that's what I say, you 
can't. Sharp as a pig's scream they are — you just cant do 
nothin'. 

beatie. Mother, where's the bakin' tin ? 

mr bryant. When we gonna eat that ? 

beatie. You ent ! It's for Jenny Beales. 

mr bryant. You aren't making that for Jenny are you ? 

beatie. I promised her. 

mr bryant. Not with my electricity you aren't. 

beatie. But I promised, Poppy. 

120 



ROOTS 

mr bryant. That's no matters. I aren't spendin' money on 

electricity bills so's you can make every Tom, Dick V 

Harry a sponge cake, that I aren't. 
mrs bryant. Well, don't be so soft man, it won't take more'n 

half-hour's bakin'. 
mr bryant. I don't care what it'll take I say. I aren't lettin' her. 

Jenny wants cakes, she can make 'em herself. So put that 

away Beatie and use it for something else. 
mrs bryant. You wanna watch what you're sayin' of 'cos I 

live here too. 
mr bryant. I know all about that but I pay the electricity 

bill and I says she isn't bakin'. 
beatie. But Poppy, one cake. 

MR BRYANT. No I Say. 

beatie. Well, Mummy, do something — how can he be so 
mean. 

mrs bryant. Blust me if you ent the meanest ole sod that 
walks this earth. Your own daughter and you won't let 
her use your oven. You bloody ole hypercrite. 

mr bryant. You pay the bills and then you call names. 

mrs bryant. What I ever seen in you God only knows. Yes ! 
an' he never warn me. Bloody ole hypercrite ! 

mr bryant. You pay the bills and then you call names I say. 

mrs bryant. On four pounds ten a week? You want me to 
keep you and pay bills? Four pound ten he give me. God 
knows what he do wi' the rest. I don't know how much 
he've got. I don't, no I don't. Bloody ole hypercrite. 

mr bryant. Let's hev grub and not so much o' the lip woman. 
(Beatie begins to put the things away. She is on the verge of 
the tears she will soon let fall.) 

mrs bryant. That's how he talk to me — when he do talk. 
'Cos you know he don't ever talk more'n he hev to, and 
when he do say something it's either 'how much this cost' 
or 'lend us couple o' bob.' He've got the money but sooner 

121 



ACT TWO 



than break into that he borrow off me. Bloody old miser. 
( To Beatie) What you wanna cry for gal ? 'Tent worth it. 
Blust, you don't wanna let an ole hypercrite like him upset 
you, no you don't. I'll get my back on you my manny, see 
if I don't. You won't get away with no tricks on me. 
(Beatie has gone into the other room and returned with a 
small packet.) 
beatie (throwing parcel in father's lap). Present for you. 
mrs bryant. I'd give him presents that I would ! I'd walk out 
and disown him ! Beatie, now stop you a-cryin' gal — blust, 
he ent worth cryin' for, that he ent. Stop it I say and we'll 
have lunch. Or you lost your appetite gal ? 
(Beatie sniffs a few tears back, pauses, and — ) 
beatie. No — no, that I ent. Hell, I can eat all right ! 



curtain 



Scene 2 



Lunch has been eaten. Mr Bryant is sitting at the table rolling 
himself a cigarette. Mrs Bryant is collecting the dishes and taking 
them to a sink to wash up. Beatie is taking things off the table and 
putting them into the larder — jars of sauce, plates of sliced bread 
and cakes, butter, sugar, condiments, and bowl of tinned fruit. 

mrs bryant (to Beatie). Ask him what he want for his tea. 
mr bryant. She don't ever ask me before, what she wanna 

ask me now for ? 
mrs bryant. Tell him it's his stomach I'm thinking about — 

I don't want him complaining to me about the food I cook. 
MR bryant. Tell her it's no matters to me — I ent got no pain 

now besides. 
beatie. Mother, is that water ready for my bath ? 
mrs bryant. Where you hevin' it? 

122 



ROOTS 

beatie. In the kitchen of course. 

MRS bryant. Blust gal, you can't bath in this kitchen during 

the day, what if someone call at the door ? 
beatie. Put up the curtain then, I shan't be no more'n ten 

minutes. 
mr bryant. ' Sides, who want to see her in her dickey suit. 
beatie. I know men as 'ould pay to see me in my dickey suit. 
(Posing her plump outline) Don't you think I got a nice dickey 
suit? 

(Mr Bryant makes a dive and pinches her bottom.) 
Ow ! Stoppit Bryants, stoppit ! 

(He persists.) 
Daddy, stop it now ! 
mrs bryant. Tell him he can go as soon as he like, I want your 

bath over and done with. 
beatie. Oh Mother, stop this nonsense do. If you want to tell 

him something tell him — not me. 
MRS bryant. / don't want to speak to him, hell if I do. 
beatie. Father, get the bath in for me please. Mother, where's 
them curtains. 

(Mr Bryant goes off to fetch a long tin bath — wide at one 
end, narrow at the other — while Mrs Bryant leaves 
washing up to fish out some curtains which she hangs from 
one wall to another concealing thus a corner of the kitchen. 
Anything that is in the way is removed. Beatie meanwhile 
brings out a change of underwear, her dressing-gown, the new 
frock, some soap, powder, and towel. These she lays within 
easy reach of the curtain.) 
beatie. I'm gonna wear my new dress and go across the fields 

to see Frankie and Pearl. 
mrs bryant. Frankie won't be there, what you on about? 

He'll be gettin' the harvest in. 
beatie. You makin* anything for the harvest festival? 
mr bryant (entering with bath, places it behind curtain). Your 

123 



ACT TWO 

mother don't ever do anything for the harvest festival — 
don't you know that by now. 
beatie. Get you to work father Bryant, I'm gonna plunge in 

water and I'll make a splash. 
mrs bryant. Tell him we've got kippers for tea and if he don' 

want none let him say now. 
beatie. She says it's kippers for tea. 
mr bryant. Tell her I'll eat kippers. (Goes off collecting bike on 

the way.) 
beatie. He says he'll eat kippers. Right now, Mother, you get 
cold water an' I'll pour the hot. 
(Each now picks up a bucket. Mrs Bryant goes off out to 
collect the cold water and Beatie plunges bucket into boiler to 
retrieve hot water. The bath is prepared with much childlike 
glee. Beatie loves her creature comforts and does with 
unabashed, almost animal, enthusiasm that which she enjoys. 
When the bath is prepared, Beatie slips behind the curtain to 
undress and enter.) 
mrs bryant. You hear about Jimmy Skelton? They say he've 

bin arrested for accosting some man in the village. 
beatie. Jimmy Skelton what own the pub ? 
mrs bryant. That's him. I know all about Jimmy Skelton 
though. He were a young boy when I were a young girl. 
I always partner him at whist drives. He's been to law 
before you know. Yes ! An' he won the day too ! Won the 
day he did. I don't take notice though, him and me gets on 
all right. What do Ronnie's mother do with her time ? 
beatie. She've got a sick husband to look after. 
mrs bryant. She an educated woman ? 
beatie. Educated? No. She's a foreigner. Nor ent Ronnie 
educated neither. He's an intellectual, failed all his exams. 
They read and things. 
mrs bryant. Oh, they don't do nothing then? 
beatie. Do nothing? I'll tell you what Ronnie do, he work 

124 



ROOTS 

till all hours in a hot ole kitchen. An' he teach kids in a 
club to act and jive and such. And he don't stop at week- 
ends either 'cos then there's political meetings and such and 
I get breathless trying to keep up wi' him. OOOhh, 
Mother it's hot . . . 

mrs bryant. I'll get you some cold then. 

beatie. No — ooh — it's lovely. The water's so soft Mother. 

mrs bryant. Yearp. 

beatie. It's so soft and smooth. I'm in. 

mrs bryant. Don't you stay in too long gal. There go the 
twenty-minutes-past-one bus. 

beatie. Oh Mother, me bath cubes. I forgot me bath cubes. 
In the little case by me pick-up. 

(Mrs Bryant finds bath cubes and hands them to Beatie.) 

mrs bryant (continuing her work). I shall never forget when I 
furse heard on it. I was in the village and I was talking to 
Reggie Fowler. I say to him, there' ve bin a lot o' talk 
about Jimmy ent there? Disgustin', I say. Still, there's 
somebody wanna make some easy money, you'd expect 
that in a village wouldn't you ? Yes, I say to him, a lot of 
talk. An' he stood there, an' he were a-lookin' at me an' 
a-lookin' as I were a-talkin' and then he say, missus, he say, 
I were one o' the victims ! Well, you could' ve hit me over 
the head wi' a hammer. I was one o' the victims, he say. 

beatie. Mother, these bath cubes smell beautiful. I could stay 
here all day. 

mrs bryant. Still, Jimmy's a good fellow with it all — do 
anything for you. I partner him at whist drives ; he bin had 
up scores o' times though. 

beatie. Mother, what we gonna make Ronnie when he come ? 

mrs bryant. Well, what do he like ? 

beatie. He like trifle and he like steak and kidney pie. 

mrs bryant. We'll make that then. So long as he don't com- 
plain o' the guts ache. Frankie hev it too you know. 

125 



ACT TWO 

beatie. Know why? You all eat too much. The Londoners 
think we live a healthy life but they don't know we stuff 
ourselves silly till our guts ache. 

mrs bryant. But you know what's wrong wi' Jimmy Beales ? 
It's indigestion. He eat too fast. 

beatie. What the hell's indigestion doin' a' t ween his shoulder 
blades ? 

mrs bryant. 'Cos some people get it so bad it go right 
through their stomach to the back. 

beatie. You don't get indigestion in the back Mother, what 
you on about ? 

mrs bryant. Don't you tell me gal, I hed it ! 

beatie. Owee ! The soap's in me eyes — Mother, towel, the 
towel, quickly the towel ! 
(Mrs Bryant hands in towel to Beatie. The washing up is 
probably done by now, so Mrs Bryant sits in a chair, legs 
apart and arms folded, thinking what else to say.) 

mrs bryant. You heard that Ma Buckley hev been taken to 
Mental Hospital in Norwich ? Poor ole dear. If there's one 
tiling I can't abide that's mental cases. They frighten me — 
they do. Can't face 'em. I'd sooner follow a man to a 
churchyard than the mental hospital. That's a terrible 
thing to see a person lose their reason — that 'tis. Well, I 
tell you what, down where I used to live, down the other 
side of the Hall, years ago we moved in next to an old 
woman. I only had Jenny and Frank then — an' this woman 
she were the sweetest of people. We used to talk and do 
errands for each other — Oh she was a sweet ole dear. And 
then one afternoon I was going out to get my washin' in 
and I saw her. She was standin' in a tub o' water up to her 
neck. She was! Up to her neck. An' her eyes had that 
glazed, wonderin' look and she stared straight at me she 
did. Straight at me. Well, do you know what? I was struck 
dumb. I was struck dumb wi' shock. What wi' her bein' so 

126 



ROOTS 

nice all this while, the sudden comin' on her like that in the 
tub fair upset me. It did ! And people tell me afterwards 
that she's bin goin' in an' out o' hospital for years. Blust, 
that scare me. That scare me so much she nearly took me 
round the bend wi' her. 

(Beatie appears from behind the curtain in her dressing- 
gown, a towel round her head.) 

beatie. There! I'm gonna hev a bath every day when I'm 
married. 

(Beatie starts rubbing her hair with towel and fiddles with 
radio. She finds a programme playing Mendelssohn s Fourth 
Symphony, the slow movement, and stands before the 
mirror, listening and rubbing.) 

beatie (looking at her reflection). Isn't your nose a funny thing, 
and your ears. And your arms and your legs, aren't they 
funny things — sticking out of a lump. 

mrs bryant (switching off radio). Turn that squit off! 

beatie (turning on her mother violently). Mother! I could kill 
you when you do that. No wonder I don't know anything 
about anything. I never heard nothing but dance music 
because you always turned off the classics. I never knowed 
anything about the news because you always switched off 
after the headlines. I never read any good books 'cos there 
was never any in the house. 

mrs bryant. What's gotten into you now gal ? 

beatie. God in heaven Mother, you live in the country but 
you got no — no — no majesty. You spend your time 
among green fields, you grow flowers and you breathe 
fresh air and you got no majesty. Your mind's cluttered up 
with nothing and you shut out the world. What kind of 
a life did you give me ? 

mrs bryant. Blust gal, I weren't no teacher. 

beatie. But you hindered. You didn't open one door for me. 
Even his mother cared more for me than what you did. 

127 



ACT TWO 



Beatie, she say, Beatie, why don't you take up evening 
classes and learn something other than waitressing. Yes, 
she say, you won't ever regret learnin' things. But did you 
care what job I took up or whether I learned tilings? You 
didn't even think it was necessary. 

MRS bryant. I fed you. I clothed you. I took you out to the 
sea. What more d'you want. We're only country folk you 
know. We ent got no big things here you know. 

beatie. Squit ! Squit ! It makes no difference country or town. 
All the town girls I ever worked with were just like me. It 
makes no difference country or town — that's squit. Do 
you know when I used to work at the holiday camp and I 
sat down with the other girls to write a letter we used to 
sit and discuss what we wrote about. An' we all agreed, all 
on us, that we started: 'Just a few lines to let you know', 
and then we get on to the weather and then we get stuck 
so we write about each other and after a page an' half of 
big scrawl end up: 'Hoping this finds you as well as it 
leaves me.' There ! We couldn't say any more. Thousands 
of things happening at this holiday camp and we couldn't 
find words for them. All of us the same. Hundreds of girls 
and one day we're gonna be mothers, and you still talk to 
me of Jimmy Skelton and the ole woman in the tub. Do 
you know I've heard that story a dozen times. A dozen 
times. Can't you hear yourself Mother ? Jesus, how can I 
bring Ronnie to this house. 

mrs bryant. Blust gal, if Ronnie don't like us then he — 

beatie. Oh, he'll like you all right. He like people. He'd've 
loved ole Stan Mann. Ole Stan Mann would' ve under- 
stood everything Ronnie talk about. Blust! That man 
liked livin'. Besides, Ronnie say it's too late for the old 
'uns to learn. But he says it's up to us young 'uns. And them 
of us that know hev got to teach them of us as don't know. 

mrs bryant. I bet he hev a hard time trying to change you gal ! 

128 



ROOTS 

beatie. He's not trying to change me Mother. You can't 
change people, he say, you can only give them some love 
and hope they'll take it. And he's tryin' to teach me and 
I'm tryin' to understand — do you see that Mother ? 

mrs bryant. I don't see what that's got to do with music 
though. 

beatie. Oh my God! (Suddenly) I'll show you. (Goes off to 
front room to collect pick-up and a record.) Now sit you down 
gal and I'll show you. Don't start ironing or reading or 
nothing, just sit there and be prepared to learn something. 
(Appears with pick-up and switches on.) You aren't too old, 
just you sit and listen. That's the trouble you see, we ent 
ever prepared to learn anything, we close our minds the 
minute anything unfamiliar appear. J could never listen to 
music. I used to like some on it but then I'd lose patience, 
I'd go to bed in the middle of a symphony, or my mind 
would wander 'cos the music didn't mean anything to me 
so I'd go to bed or start talking. 'Sit back woman,' he'd 
say, 'listen to it. Let it happen to you and you'll grow as 
big as the music itself 

mrs bryant. Blust he talk like a book. 

beatie. An' sometimes he talk as though you didn't know 
where the moon or the stars was. (Beatie puts on record of 
Bizet' sV Arlesienne Suite.) Now listen. This is a simple piece 
of music, it's not highbrow but it's full of living. And that's 
what he say socialism is. 'Christ,' he say. 'Socialism isn't 
talking all the time, it's living, it's singing, it's dancing, it's 
being interested in what go on around you, it's being con- 
cerned about people and the world.' Listen Mother. (She 
becomes breathless and excited.) Listen to it. It's simple isn't it? 
Can you call that squit ? 

mrs bryant. I don't say it's all squit. 

beatie. You don't have to frown because it's alive. 

mrs bryant. No, not all on it's squit. 

129 



ACT TWO 



beatie. See the way the other tune comes in? Hear it? Two 

simple tunes, one after the other. 
mrs bryant. I aren't saying it's all squit. 
beatie. And now listen, listen, it goes together, the two tunes 
together, they knit, they're perfect. Don't it make you 
want to dance? (She begins to dance a mixture of a cossack 
dance and a sailor's hornpipe.) 

(The music becomes fast and her spirits are young and high.) 

Listen to that Mother. Is it difficult ? Is it squit ? It's light. It 

make me feel light and confident and happy. God, Mother, 

we could all be so much more happy and alive. Wheeeee . . . 

(Beatie claps her hands and dances on and her Mother 

smiles and claps her hands and — ) 



THE CURTAIN FALLS 



130 



ACT THREE 

Two weeks have passed. It is Saturday, the day Ronnie is to arrive. 
One of the walls of the kitchen is now pushed aside and the front 
room is revealed. It is low-ceilinged, and has dark hroivn wooden 
beams. The furniture is not typical country farmhouse type. There 
may be one or two windsor-type straight-back chairs, but for the 
rest it is cheap utility stuff. Two armchairs, a table, a small bamboo 
table, wooden chairs, a small sofa, and a swivel bookcase. There are a 
lot of flowers around — in pots on the window ledge and in vases on 
the bamboo table and swivel case. 

It is three in the afternoon, the weather is cloudy — it has been 
raining and is likely to start again. On the table is a spread of food 
(none of this will be eaten). There are cakes and biscuits on plates 
and glass stands. Bread and butter, butter in a dish, tomatoes, 
cheese, jars of pickled onions, sausage rolls, dishes of tinned fruit — 
it is a spread! Round the table are eight chairs. Beatie's paintings are 
hanging on the wall. The room is empty because Beatie is upstairs 
changing and Mrs Bryant is in the kitchen. Beatie — until she 
descends — conducts all her conversation shouting from upstairs.) 

beatie. Mother ! What you on at now ? 

mrs bryant (from kitchen). I'm just puttin' these glass cherries 

on the trifle. 
beatie. Well come on look, he'll be here at four thirty. 
mrs bryant (from kitchen). Don't you fret gal, it's another 

hour V half yet, the postman hevn't gone by. (Enters with 

an enormous bowl oj trifle.) There ! He like trifle you say? 
beatie. He love it. 
mrs bryant. Well he need to 'cos there's plenty on it. (To 

herself, surveying the table) Yes, there is, there's plenty on it. 

(It starts to rain.) Blust, listen to that weather. 
beatie. Rainin' again ! 
mrs bryant (looking out ofwindow). Raining? It's rainin' fit to 

drowned, you. (Sound of bus.) There go the three-o'clock. 

131 



ACT THREE 

beatie. Mother get you changed, come on, I want us ready in 
time. 

mrs bryant. Blust you'd think it were the bloody Prince of 
Egypt comin'. (Goes upstairs.) 

(The stage is empty again for a few seconds. People are heard 
taking off their macs and exclaiming at the weather from the 
kitchen. Enter Frank and Pearl Bryant. He is pleasant 
and dressed in a blue pin-striped suit, is ruddy-faced and 
blond-haired. An odd sort of shyness makes him treat every- 
thing as a joke. His wife is a pretty brunette, young, and 
ordinarily dressed in plain, flowered frock.) 

frank (calling). Well, where are you all? Come on — I'm 
hungry. 

pearl. Shut you up bor, you only just had lunch. 

frank. Well I'm hungry again. (Calling) Well, where is this 
article we come to see ? 

beatie. He ent arrived. 

frank. Well, he want to hurry, 'cos I'm hungry. 

beatie. You're always hungry. 

frank. What do you say he is — a strong socialist ? 

beatie. Yes. 

frank. And a Jew boy? 

BEATIE. Yes. 

frank (to himself). Well, that's a queer mixture then. 

pearl (calling). I hope he don't talk politics all the time. 

frank. Have you had a letter from him yet ? 

pearl. Stop it Frank, you know she hevn't heard. 

frank. Well that's a rum boy friend what don't write. (Looks 

at paintings, pauses before one of them and growls.) 
pearl. Watch out or it'll bite you back. 

(Beatie comes down from upstairs. She is dressed in her new 
frock and looks happy, healthy, and radiant) 
frank. Hail there, sister! I was then contemplating your 

masterpiece. 

132 



ROOTS 

beatie. Well don't contemplate too long 'cos you aren't 
hevin' it. 

frank. Blust ! I'd set my ole heart on it. 

pearl. That's a nice frock Beatie. 

frank. Where's the rest of our mighty clan? 

beatie. Jenny and Jimmy should be here soon and Susie and 
Stan mightn't come. 

frank. What's wrong wi' them? 

beatie. Don't talk to me about it 'cos I hed enough! Susie 
won't talk to Mother. 

pearl. That make nearly eighteen months she hevn't spoke. 

beatie. Why ever did you and Mother fall out Pearl ? 

frank. 'Cos Mother's so bloody stubborn that's why. 

pearl. Because one day she said she wanted to change her 
Labour Tote man, that's why, and she asked me to do it 
for her. So I said all right, but it'll take a couple of weeks; 
and then she get riled because she said I didn't want to 
change it for her. And then I ask her why didn't she 
change him herself and she say because she was too ill to 
go all the way to see John Clayton to tell him, and then 
she say to me, why, don't you think I'm ill? And I say 
— I know this were tactless o' me — but I say, no Mother, 
you don't look ill to me. And she didn't speak to me since. 
I only hope she don't snub me this afternoon. 

beatie. Well, she tell me a different story. 

frank. Mother's always quarrelling. 

pearl. Well I reckon there ent much else she can do stuck in 
this ole house on her own all day. And father Bryant he 
don't say too much when he's home you know. 

frank. Well blust, she hevn't spoke to her own mother for 
three years, not since Granny Dykes took Jenny in when 
she had that illegitimate gal Daphne. 

beatie. Hell ! What a bloody family ! 

frank. A mighty clan I say. 

133 



ACT THREE 

(Jimmy and Jenny Beales now enter.) 

jenny. Hello Frankie, hello Pearl, hello Beatie. 

frank. And more of the mighty clan. 

jenny. Mighty clan you say? Mighty bloody daft you mean. 
Well, where is he ? 

frank. The mysterious stranger has not yet come — we await. 

jenny. Well, I aren't waitin' long 'cos I'm hungry. 

pearl. That's all tins family of Bryants ever do is think o' 
their guts. 

frank (to Jimmy). Have you formed your association yit ? 

jenny. What association is this ? 

frank. What ! Hevn't he told you ? 

jimmy. Shut you up Frank Bryant or you'll get me hung. 

frank. Oh, a mighty association — a mighty one! I'll tell 
ye. One day you see we was all sittin' round in the pub — 
Jimmy, me, Starkie, Johnny Oats, and Bonky Dawson — 
we'd hed a few drinks and Jimmy was feelin' — well, 
he was feelin' — you know what, the itch ! He hed the 
itch! He started complaining about ham, ham, ham all 
the time. So then Bonky Dawson say, blust, he say, there 
must be women about who feel the same. And Starkie he 
say, well 'course they are, only how do you tell ? And then 
we was all quiet a while thinkin' on it when suddenly 
Jimmy says, we ought to start an association of them as 
need a bit now and then and we all ought to wear a badge 
he say, and when you see a woman wearin' a badge you 
know she need a bit too. 

jimmy. Now that's enough Frank or I'll hit you over the skull. 

frank. Now, not content wi' just that, ole Jimmy then say, 
and we ought to have a password to indicate how bad 
off you are. So listen what he suggest. He suggest you go 
up to any one o' these women what's wearin' a badge 
and you say, how many lumps of sugar do you take in 
your tea ? And if she say 'two' then you know she ent 

134 



ROOTS 

too badly off, but she's willin\ But if she say 'four* then 
you know she's in as bad. a state as what you are, see ? 
(Long pause.) 

jenny. He'd hev a fit if she said she took sixteen lumps though 
wouldn't he ? 
(Pause.) 

pearl. Where's mother Bryant? 

beatie. Upstairs changin'. 

pearl. Where's father Bryant? 

beatie. Tendin' the pigs. 

frank. You're lucky to hev my presence you know. 

BEATIE. Oh? 

frank. A little more sun and I'd've bin gettin' in the harvest. 
pearl. Well, what did you think of that storm last night? 

All that thunder V lightnin' and it didn't stop once. 
beatie. Ronnie love it you know. He sit and watch it for 

bloody hours. 
frank. He's a queer article then. 
jenny. He do sound a rum 'un don't he? 
beatie. Well you'll soon see. 
jimmy. Hev he got any sisters ? 
beatie. One married and she live not far from here. 
pearl. She live in the country ? A town girl ? Whatever for ? 
beatie. Her husband make furniture by hand. 
pearl. Can't he do that in London ? 

beatie. Ronnie say they think London's an inhuman place. 
jimmy. So 'tis, so 'tis. 
beatie. Here come father Bryant. 

(Mr Bryant enters. He is in denims and raincoat, tired, and 
stooped slightly.) 
frank. And this be the male head of the mighty Bryant clan ! 
mr bryant. Blust, you're all here soon then. 
beatie. Get you changed quick Father — he'll be along any 

minute look. 

135 



ACT THREE 

mr bryant. Shut you up gal, I'll go when I'm ready, I don't 

want you pushin' me. 
(Mrs Bryant comes from upstairs. She looks neat and also 
wears a flowered frock.) 
frank. And this be the female head o' the mighty Bryant clan ! 
mrs bryant. Come on Bryant, get you changed — we're all 

ready look. 
mr bryant. Blust, there go the other one. Who is he this boy, 

that's what I wanna know. 
mrs bryant. He's upset ! I can see it ! I can tell it in his voice. 

Come on Bryants, what's the matters. 
mr bryant. There ent much up wi' me, what you on about 

woman. (Makes to go.) Now leave me be, you want me 

changed look. 
mrs bryant. If there ent much up wi' you, I'll marry some 

other. 
frank. Healey bin at you Pop ? 
beatie. The pigs dyin' ? 
mrs bryant. It's something serious or he wouldn't be so 

happy lookin'. 
mr bryant. I bin put on casual labour. 
jenny. Well isn't that a sod now. 
mrs bryant. Your guts I suppose. 
mr bryant. I tell him it's no odds, that there's no pain. That 

don't matters Jack, he says, I aren't hevin' you break up 

completely on me. You go on casual, he say, and if you 

gets better you can come on to the pigs again. 
mrs bryant. That's half pay then ? 
beatie. Can't you get another job ? 
frank. He've bin wi' them for eighteen years. 
beatie. But you must be able to do something else — what 

about cowman again ? 
mr bryant. Bill Waddington do that see. He've bin at it this 

last six 'n' half years. 

136 






ROOTS 

jenny. It's no good upsettin' yourself Beatie. It happen all the 

time gal. 
jimmy. Well, we told her when she was at ours didn't we. 
mrs bryant (to Mr Bryant). All right, get you on up, there 

ent no thin' we can do. We'll worry on it later. We always 

manage. It's gettin' late look. 
mr bryant. Can he swim? 'Cos he bloody need to. It's 

rainin' fit to drowned you. (Goes off upstairs.) 
mrs bryant. Well, shall we have a little cup o' tea while 

we're waitin' ? I'll go put the kettle on. (Goes to kitchen.) 
(Everyone sits around now. Jenny takes out some knitting 
and Jimmy picks up a paper to read. There is a silence. It is 
not an awkward silence, just a conversationless room.) 
pearl (to jenny) . Who's lookin' after your children ? 
jenny. Ole mother Mann next door. 
pearl. Poor ole dear. How's she feelin' now ? 
jenny. She took it bad. (Nodding at Jimmy) Him too. He think 

he were to blame. 
pearl. Blust that weren't his fault. Don't be so daft Jimmy 

Beales. Don't you go fretting yourself or you'll make us 

all feel queer look. You done nothin' wrong bor — he 

weren't far off dying 'sides. 
frank. They weren't even married were they? 
jenny. No, they never were — she started lookin' after him 

when he had that first stroke and she just stayed. 
jimmy. Lost her job 'cos of it too. 
frank. Well, yes, she would, wouldn't she — she was a State 

Registered Nurse or something weren't she? (To Beatie) 

Soon ever the authorities got to hear o' that they told her 

to pack up livin' wi' him or quit her job, see? 
jenny. Bloody daft I reckon. What difference it make whether 

she married him or not. 
pearl. I reckon you miss him Jenny ? 
jenny. Hell yes — that I do. He were a good ole bor — always 

137 



ACT THREE 

joking and buying the kid sweets. Well, do you know I 

cry when I heard it? I did. Blust, that fair shook me — 

that it did, there ! 
jimmy. Who's lookin' after your kid then, Pearl ? 
pearl. Father. 

(Pause.) 
jimmy (to Frank). Who do you think'll win today? 
frank. Well Norwich won't. 
jimmy. No. 

(Pause. Mrs Bryant enters and sits down.) 
mrs bryant. Well the kettle's on. 
pearl (to Beatie). Hev his sister got any children? 
beatie. Two boys. 

jimmy. She wanna get on top one night then they'll hev girls. 
jenny. Oh shut you up Jimmy Beales. 
mrs bryant. Hed another little win last night. 
jenny. When was this? 
mrs bryant. The fireman's whist drive. Won seven V six in 

the knockout. 
jenny. Yearp. 
frank (reading the paper). I see that boy what assaulted the ole 

woman in London got six years. 
mrs bryant. Blust ! He need to ! I'd've given him six years 

and a bit more. Bloody ole hooligans. Do you give me a 

chance to pass sentence and I'd soon clear the streets of 

crime, that I would. Yes, that I would. 
beatie (springing into activity). All right Mother — we'll give 

you a chance. (Grabs Jimmy's hat and umbrella. Places hat on 

mother's head and umbrella in her arms.) There you are, you're 

a judge. Now sum up and pass judgment. 
mrs bryant. I'd put him in prison for life. 
frank. You gotta sum up though. Blust, you just can't stick 

a man in prison and say nothing. 
mrs bryant. Goodbye, I'd say. 

138 



ROOTS 

beat ie. Come on Mother, speak up. Anybody can say 'go 
to prison', but you want to be a judge. Well, you show a 
judge's understanding. Talk ! Come on Mother, talk ! 
(Everyone leans forward eagerly to hear Mother talk. She 
looks startled and speechless.) 

mrs bryant. Well I — I — yes I — well I — Oh, don't be so 
soft. 

frank. The mighty head is silent. 

beatie. Well yes, she would be wouldn't she. 

mrs bryant. What do you mean, I would be? You don't 
expect me to know what they say in courts do you? I 
aren't no judge. 

beatie. Then why do you sit and pass judgment on people? 
If someone do something wrong you don't stop and 
think why. No discussin', no questions, just (snap of 
fingers) — off with his head. I mean look at Father getting 
less money. I don't see the family sittin' together and dis- 
cussin' it. It's a problem ! But which of you said it con- 
cerns you ? 

mrs bryant. Nor don't it concern them. I aren't hevin' people 
mix in my matters. 

beatie. But they aren't just people — they're your family for 
hell's sake ! 

mrs bryant. No matters, I aren't hevin' it ! 

beatie. But Mother I — 

mrs bryant. Now shut you up Beatie Bryant and leave it alone. 
I shall talk when I hev to and I never shall do, so there ! 

beatie. You're so stubborn. 

mrs bryant. So you keep saying. 

(Mr Bryant enters, he is clean and dressed in blue pin- 
striped suit.) 

mr bryant. You brewed up yit ? 

mrs bryant (jumping up and going to kitchen). Oh hell, yes — I 
forgot the tea look. 

139 



ACT THREE 

MR bryant. Well, now we're all waitin' on him. 

jenny. Don't look as if Susie's comin'. 

beatie. Stubborn cow ! 
(Silence.) 

jenny. Hev you seen Susie's television set yit? 

beatie. I seen it. 

frank. Did you know also that when they first hed it they 
took it up to bed wi' them and lay in bed wi' a dish of 
chocolate biscuits ? 

pearl. But now they don't bother — they say they've had it a 
year now and all the old programmes they saw in the 
beginning they're seein' again. 

mrs bryant (entering with tea). Brew's up ! 

beatie. Oh, for Christ's sake let's stop gossiping. 

pearl. I aren't gossiping. I'm making an intelligent observa- 
tion about the state of television, now then. 

MR bryant. What's up wi' you now ? 

beatie. You weren't doin' nothin' o' the sort — you was 
gossiping. 

pearl. Well that's a heap sight better'n quotin' all the time. 

beatie. I don't quote all the time, I just tell you what Ronnie 
say. 

frank. Take it easy gal — he's comin' soon — don't need to 
go all jumpin' an' frantic. 

beatie. Listen ! Let me set you a problem. 

jimmy. Here we go. 

beatie. While we're waitin' for him I'll set you a moral 
problem. You know what a moral problem is? It's a prob- 
lem about right and wrong. I'll get you buggers thinking 
if it's the last thing I do. Now listen. There are four huts — 

frank. What? 

beatie. Huts. You know — them little things you live in. 
Now there are two huts on one side of a stream and two 
huts on the other side. On one side live a girl in one hut and 

140 



ROOTS 

a wise man in the other. On the other side live Tom in one 
hut and Archie in the other. Also there's a ferryman what 
run a boat across the river. Now — listen, concentrate — 
the girl loves Archie but Archie don't love the girl. And 
Tom love the girl but the girl don't go much on Tom. 

jimmy. Poor bugger. 

beatie. One day the girl hears that Archie — who don't love 
her, remember — is going to America, so she decides to 
try once more to persuade him to take her with him. So 
listen what she do. She go to the ferryman and ask him to 
take her across. The ferryman say, I will, but you must 
take off all your clothes. 

mrs bryant. Well, whatever do he wanna ask that for ? 

beatie. It don't matters why — he do ! Now the girl doesn't 
know what to do so she ask the wise man for advice, and 
he say, you must do what you think best. 

frank. Well that weren't much advice was it ! 

beatie. No matters — he give it. So the girl thinks about it 
and being so in love she decides to strip. 

pearl. Oh I say! 

mr bryant. Well, this is a rum ole story ent it ? 

beatie. Shut up Father and listen. Now, er — where was I ? 

mr bryant. She was strippin'. 

beatie. Oh yes ! So, the girl strips and the ferryman takes her 
over — he don't touch her or nothing — just takes her over 
and she rushes to Archie's hut to implore him to take her 
with him and to declare her love again. Now Archie 
promises to take her with him and so she sleeps with him 
the night. But when she wake up in the morning he've 
gone. She's left alone. So she go across to Tom and explain 
her plight and ask for help. But soon ever he knowed what 
she've done, he chuck her out see? So there she is. Poor 
little gal. Left alone with no clothes and no friends and no 
hope o£ staying alive. Now — this is the question, think 

141 



ACT THREE 

about it, don't answer quick — who is the person most 
responsible for her plight? 

jimmy. Well, can't she get back? 

beatie. No, she can't do anything. She's finished. She've hed 
it ! Now, who's to blame ? 

(There is a general air of thought for the moment and Beatie 
looks triumphant and pleased with herself) 

mrs bryant. Be you a-drinkin' on your tea look. Don't you 
worry about no naked gals. The gal won't get cold but the 
tea will. 

pearl. Well I say the girl's most responsible. 

beatie. Why? 

pearl. Well, she made the choice didn't she ? 

frank. Yes, but the old ferryman made her take ofFher clothes. 

pearl. But she didn't hev to. 

frank. Blust woman, she were in love ! 

beatie. Good ole Frank. 

jenny. Hell if I know. 

beatie. Jimmy? 

jimmy. Don't ask me gal — I follow decisions, I aren't makin' 
none. 

beatie. Father? 

mr bryant. I don't know what you're on about. 

beatie. Mother? 

mrs bryant. Drink you your tea gal — never you mind what 
I think. 

(This is what they're waiting for.) 

pearl. Well — what do Ronnie say ? 

beatie. He say the gal is responsible only for makin' the 
decision to strip off and go across and that she do that 
because she's in love. After that she's the victim of two 
phoney men — one who don't love her but take advantage 
of her and one who say he love her but don't love her 
enough to help her, and that the man who say he love her 

142 



ROOTS 

but don't do nothin' to help her is most responsible 
because he were the last one she could turn to. 

jenny. He've got it all worked out then ! 

beatie (jumping on a chair thrusting her fist into the air like 
Ronnie, and glorying in what is the beginning of a hysteric out- 
burst of his quotes). 'No one do that bad that you can't 
forgive them.' 

pearl. He's sure of himself then ? 

beatie. 'We can't be sure of everything but certain basic 
things we must be sure about or we'll die.' 

frank. He think everyone is gonna listen then ? 

beatie. 'People must listen. It's no good talking to the con- 
verted. Everyone must argue and think or they will stagnate 
and rot and the rot will spread.' 

jenny. Hark at that then. 

beatie (her strange excitement growing; she has a quote for every- 
thing). 'If wanting the best things in life means being a 
snob then glory hallelujah I'm a snob. But I'm not a snob 
Beatie, I just believe in human dignity and tolerance and 
co-operation and equality and — ' 

jimmy (jumping up in terror). He's a communist! 

beatie. 'I'm a socialist!' 

(There is a knock on the front door.) 

beatie (jumping down joyously as though her excited quotes have 
been leading to this one moment). He's here, he's here! 
(But at the door it is the Postman, from whom she takes a 
letter and a parcel.) Oh, the silly fool, the fool. Trust him 
to write a letter on the day he's coming. Parcel for you 
Mother. 

pearl. Oh, that'll be your dress from the club. 

MRS bryant. What dress is this then? I didn't ask for no dress 
from the club. 

pearl. Yes you did, you did ask me, didn't she ask me Frank ? 
Why, we were looking through the book together Mother. 

143 



ACT THREE 

mrs bryant. No matters what we was doin' together I aren't 
hevin' it. 

pearl. But Mother you distinctly — 

mrs bryant. I aren't hevin' it so there now ! 

(Beatie has read the letter — the contents stun her. She 
cannot move. She stares around speechlessly at everyone.) 

mrs bryant. Well, what's the matter wi' you gal? Let's have 
a read. (Takes letter and reads contents in a dead flat hut loud 
voice — as though it were a proclamation.) 'My dear Beatie. It 
wouldn't really work would it? My ideas about handing 
on a new kind of life are quite useless and romantic if I'm 
really honest. If I were a healthy human being it might have 
been all right but most of us intellectuals are pretty sick and 
neurotic — as you have often observed — and we couldn't 
build a world even if we were given the reins of govern- 
ment — not yet any-rate. I don't blame you for being stub- 
born, I don't blame you for ignoring every suggestion I 
ever made — I only blame myself for encouraging you to 
believe we could make a go of it and now two weeks of 
your not being here has given me the cowardly chance to 
think about it and decide and I — ' 

beatie (snatching letter). Shut up ! 

mrs bryant. Oh — so we know now do we ? 

mr bryant. What's this then — ent he comin' ? 

mrs bryant. Yes, we know now. 

mr bryant. Ent he comin' I ask ? 

beatie. No he ent comin . 

(An awful silence ensues. Everyone looks uncomfortable.) 

jenny (softly). Well blust gal, didn't you know this was going 
to happen ? 
(Beatie shakes her head.) 

mrs bryant. So were stubborn are we? 

jenny. Shut you up Mother, the girl's upset. 

mrs bryant. Well I can see that, I can see that, he ent coming, 

144 



ROOTS 

I can see that, and we're here like bloody fools, I can see 

that. 
pearl. Well did you quarrel all that much Beatie ? 
beatie (as if discovering this for the first time). He always wanted 

me to help him but I never could. Once he tried to teach 

me to type but soon ever I made a mistake I'd give up. I'd 

give up every time! I couldn't bear making mistakes. I 

don't know why, but I couldn't bear making mistakes. 
mrs bryant. Oh — so we're hearin' the other side o' the 

story now are we ? 
beatie. He used to suggest I start to copy real objects on to 

my paintings instead of only abstracts and I never took 

heed. 
mrs bryant. Oh, so you never took heed. 
jenny. Shut you up I say. 
beatie. He gimme a book sometimes and I never bothered to 

read it. 
frank (not maliciously). What about all this discussion we 

heard of? 
beatie. I never discussed things. He used to beg me to discuss 

things but I never saw the point on it. 
pearl. And he got riled because o' that ? 
beatie (trying to understand). I didn't have any patience. 
mrs bryant. Now it's coming out. 
beatie. I couldn't help him — I never knew patience. Once 

he looked at me with terrified eyes and said, 'We've been 

together for three years but you don't know who I am or 

what I'm trying to say — and you don't care do you?' 
mrs bryant. And there she was tellin' me. 
beatie. I never knew what he wanted — I didn't think it 

mattered. 
mr bryant. And there she were gettin' us to solve the moral 

problem and now we know she didn't even do it herself. 

That's a rum 'un, ent it ? 

145 



ACT THREE 

mrs bryant. The apple don't fall far from the tree — that it 
don't. 

beatie (wearily). So you're proud on it? You sit there smug 
and you're proud that a daughter of yours wasn't able to 
help her boy friend? Look at you. All of you. You can't 
say anything. You can't even help your own flesh and 
blood. Your daughter's bin ditched. It's your problem as 
well isn't it? I'm part of your family aren't I? Well, help 
me then ! Give me words of comfort ! Talk to me — for 
God's sake, someone talk to me. (She cries at last.) 

mr bryant. Well, what do we do now ? 

mrs bryant. We sit down and we eat that's what we do now. 

jenny. Don't be soft Mother, we can't leave the girl crying 
like that. 

mrs bryant. Well, blust, 'tent my fault she's cryin'. I did 
what I could — I prepared all this food, I'd've treated him 
as my own son if he'd come but he hevn't ! We got a whole 
family gathering specially to greet him, all on us look, but 
he hevn't come. So what am I supposed to do ? 

beatie. My God, Mother, I hate you — the only thing I ever 
wanted and I weren't able to keep him, I didn't know how. 
I hate you, I hate . . . 

(Mrs Bryant slaps Beatie' s face. Everyone is a little 
shocked at this harsh treatment) 

mrs bryant. There ! I hed enough ! 

mr bryant. Well what d'you wanna do that for ? 

mrs bryant. I hed enough. All this time she've bin home 
she've bin tellin' me I didn't do this and I didn't do that and 
I hevn't understood half what she've said and I've hed 
enough. She talk about bein' part o' the family but she've 
never lived at home since she've left school look. Then she 
go away from here and fill her head wi' high-class squit 
and then it turn out she don't understand any on it herself. 
It turn out she do just the same things she say I do. (Into 

146 



ROOTS 

Beatie's face) Well, am I right gal? I'm right ent I? When 
you tell me I was stubborn, what you mean was that he 
told you you was stubborn — eh? When you tell me I don't 
understand you mean you don't understand isn't it ? When 
you tell me I don't make no effort you mean you don't 
make no effort. Well, what you blaming me for ? Blaming 
me all the time ! I haven't bin responsible for you since you 
left home — you bin on your own. She think I like it, she 
do ! Thinks I like it being cooped up in this house all day. 
Well I'm telling you my gal — I don't ! There ! And if I 
had a chance to be away working somewhere the whole 
lot on you's could go to hell — the lot on you's. All right so 
I am a bloody fool — all right ! So I know it ! A whole two 
weeks I've bin told it. Well, so then I can't help you my 
gal, no that I can't, and you get used to that once and for 
all. 

beatie. No you can't Mother, I know you can't. 

MRS bryant. I suppose doin' all those things for him weren't 
enough. I suppose he weren't satisfied wi' goodness only. 

beatie. Oh, what's the use. 

mrs bryant. Well, don't you sit there an' sigh gal like you 
was Lady Nevershit. I ask you something. Answer me. 
You do the talking then. Go on — you say you know 
something we don't so you do the talking. Talk — go on, 
talk gal. 

beatie [despairingly). I can't Mother, you're right — the apple 
don't fall far from the tree do it? You're right, I'm like 
you. Stubborn, empty, wi' no tools for livin'. I got no 
roots in nothing. I come from a family o' farm labourers 
yet I ent got no roots — just like town people — just a 
mass o' no thin'. 

frank. Roots, gal? What do you mean, roots? 

beatie [impatiently). Roots, roots, roots ! Christ, Frankie,you' re 
in the fields all day, you should know about growing 

147 



ACT THREE 

things. Roots ! The things you come from, the things that 
feed you. The things that make you proud of yourself — 
roots ! 

mr bryant. You got a family ent you? 

beatie. I am not talking about family roots — I mean — the 
— I mean — Look ! Ever since it begun the world's bin 
growin' hasn't it? Things hev happened, things have bin 
discovered, people have bin thinking and improving and 
inventing but what do we know about it all ? 

jimmy. What is she on about ? 

beatie (various interjection ). What do you mean, what am I 
on about? I'm talking! Listen to me! I'm tellin' you that 
the world's bin growing for two thousand years and we 
hevn't noticed it. I'm telling you that we don't know what 
we are or where we come from. I'm telling you some- 
thing's cut us off from the beginning. I'm telling you 
we've got no roots. Blimey Joe! We've all got large 
allotments, we all grow things around us so we should 
know about roots. You know how to keep your flowers 
alive don't you Mother ? Jimmy — you know how to keep 
the roots of your veges strong and healthy. It's not only 
the corn that need strong roots, you know, it's us too. But 
what've we got? Go on, tell me, what've we got? We 
don't know where we push up from and we don't bother 
neither. 

pearl. Well, I aren't grumbling. 

beatie. You say you aren't — oh yes, you say so, but look at 
you. What've you done since you come in ? Hev you said 
anythin'? I mean really said or done anything to show 
you're alive ? Alive ! Blust, what do it mean ? Do you know 
what it mean? Any of you? Shall I tell you what Susie said 
when I went and saw her? She say she don't care if that 
ole atom bomb drop and she die — that's what she say. 
And you know why she say it? I'll tell you why, because 

148 



ROOTS 

if she had to care she'd have to do something about it and 
she find that too much effort. Yes she do. She can't be 
bothered — she's too bored with it all. That's what we all 
are — we're all too bored. 

mrs bryant. Blust woman — bored you say, bored ? You 
say Susie's bored, with a radio and television an' that? I go 
t'hell if she's bored ! 

beatie. Oh yes, we turn on a radio or a TV set maybe, or we 
go to the pictures — if them's love stories or gangsters — 
but isn't that the easiest way out? Anything so long as we 
don't have to make an effort. Well, am I right ? You know 
I'm right. Education ent only books and music — it's 
asking questions, all the time. There are millions of us, all 
over the country, and no one, not one of us, is asking 
questions, we're all taking the easiest way out. Everyone I 
ever worked with took the easiest way out. We don't 
fight for anything, we're so mentally lazy we might as well 
be dead. Blust, we are dead ! And you know what Ronnie 
say sometimes ? He say it serves us right ! That's what he say 
— it's our own bloody fault ! 

jimmy. So that's us summed up then — so we know where 
we are then ! 

mrs bryant. Well if he don't reckon we count nor nothin', 
then it's as well he didn't come. There! It's as well he 
didn't come. 

beatle. Oh, he thinks we count all right — living in mystic 
communion with nature. Living in mystic bloody com- 
munion with nature (indeed). But us count? Count 
Mother? I wonder. Do we? Do you think we really 
count? You don' wanna take any notice of what them ole 
papers say about the workers bein' all-important these 
days — that's all squit ! 'Cos we aren't. Do you think when 
the really talented people in the country get to work they 
get to work for us ? Hell if they do ! Do you think they 

149 



ACT THREE 

don't know we 'ont make the effort? The writers don't 
write thinkin' we can understand, nor the painters don't 
paint expecting us to be interested — that they don't, nor 
don't the composers give out music thinking we can 
appreciate it. 'Blust,' they say, 'the masses is too stupid for 
us to come down to them. Blust,' they say, 'if they don't 
make no effort why should we bother ?' So you know who 
come along ? The slop singers and the pop writers and the 
film makers and women's magazines and the Sunday 
papers and the picture strip love stories — that's who come 
along, and you don't have to make no effort for them, it 
come easy. 'We know where the money lie,' they say, 'hell 
we do ! The workers've got it so let's give them what they 
want. If they want slop songs and film idols we'll give 'em 
that then. If they want words of one syllable, we'll give 
'em that then. If they want the third-rate, blust! We'll give 
'em that then. Anything's good enough for them 'cos they 
don't ask for no more!' The whole stinkin' commercial 
world insults us and we don't care a damn. Well, Ronnie's 
right — it's our own bloody fault. We want the third-rate 
— we got it ! We got it ! We got it ! We . . . 

(Suddenly Beatie stops as if listening to herself. She pauses, 

turns with an ecstatic smile on her face — ) 
D'you hear that? D'you hear it? Did you listen to me? I'm 
talking. Jenny, Frankie, Mother — I'm not quoting no 
more. 
mrs bryant (getting up to sit at table). Oh hell, I hed enough of 
her — let her talk a while she'll soon get fed up. 

(The others join her at the table and proceed to eat and 

murmur.) 
beatie. Listen to me someone. (As though a vision were 
revealed to her) God in heaven, Ronnie! It does work, it's 
happening to me, I can feel it's happened, I'm beginning, 
on my own two feet — I'm beginning . . . 

150 



ROOTS 



(The murmur of the family sitting down to eat grows as 
Beatte's last cry is heard. Whatever she will do they will 
continue to live as before. As Beatie stands alone, articulate 
at last — ) 



THE CURTAIN FALLS 



151 



ROOTS 



'I'LL WAIT FOR YOU IN THE HEAVENS BLUE 



fe-jUJ j J If J 3 1 g J-^ 



^ 



j J J- J'l' J r if f-U^Ui 



152 



I'M TALKING ABOUT JERUSALEM 



For 
Delia and Ralph 



CHARACTERS OF THE PLAY 

Ronnie Kahn 

Ada Simmonds, his sister 

Sarah Kahn, their mother 

Dave Simmonds, Adas husband 

ist Removal Man 

2nd Removal Man 

Libby Dobson, wartime friend of Dave 

Colonel Dewhurst, Dave's employer 

Sammy, Dave's apprentice 

Danny Simmonds 

Esther Kahn ) r , 

_, xr \ aunts of Ronnie ana Ada 

Cissie Kahn j 



act I 
September 1946 

ACT 11 
Scene 1 : July 1947 
Scene 2: Autumn 1953 
Scene 3 : Autumn 1957 

ACT III 

1959 



First presented at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, on 
4th April i960 



ACT ONE 

Norfolk. A house in the middle of fields. We see the large kitchen 
of the house, the garden, and the end part of an old ham. 

September 1946. Dave and Ada Simmonds are just moving in. 
Boxes and cases are strewn around. Dave and two Removal Men 
are manoeuvring a large wardrobe, 1930 type, from a lorry offstage. 
Ada is unpacking one of the cases. Sarah Kahn, her mother, is 
buttering some bread on a table, and from a portable radio comes a 
stirring part of Beethoven s Ninth Symphony. Ronnie Kahn, 
Adas brother, is standing on a box conducting both the music and 
the movement of people back and forth. Dave — unlike Ada and 
Ronnie — speaks with a slight cockney accent. 

ronnie. Gently now. Don't rush it. You're winning. 

dave. Instead of standing there and giving orders why don't 

you give a bloody hand? 
ronnie. You don't need any more hands. I'm organizing you, 

I'm inspiring you. 
dave. Jesus Christ it's heavy, it's heavy. Drop it a minute. 
ronnie. Lower it gently — mind the edges, it's a work of art. 
dave. I'll work of art you. And turn that radio off — I can 

cope with Beethoven but not both of you. 
ronnie (turns off radio). What are you grumbling for? I've 

been shlapping things to and fro up till now, haven't I? 

Only as it's the last piece I thought I'd exercise my talents 

as a foreman. Don't I make a good foreman? (Calling) 

Hey, Mother, don't I make a good foreman ? 
sarah (coming from the kitchen). What've you lost? 
ronnie. Listen to her ! What've you lost ! She's just like her 

daughter, she can't hear a thing straight. Watch this. Hey, 

Ada ! The sea's not far away you know. 
ada. You can't have any because I haven't put the kettle on 

yet. 
ronnie. Lunatic family. 

157 



ACT ONE 

dave. Come on. We'll never get done. Ready? 

( They bend to lift the wardrobe. Sarah returns to kitchen.) 
ronnie. Heave — slowly — don't strain — heave. 
1ST r.m. Where's it going? 
dave. Through the kitchen and upstairs. 
ronnie. You won't get through the kitchen, go round the 

back. 
dave. We'll manage. 

(Ronnie goes on ahead and pushes Ada, the box and 
Sarah and table out of their path.) 
ronnie. Make way, make way — the army is marching on its 

stomach. (Dave and the two men are bent forward in effort.) 

You see, I can't help, there's not enough room for four to 

get round that door. 

(They stop at other end of the kitchen and lower the wardrobe.) 
dave. We have to get round here and along the passage. 
2ND r.m. Never. You can't bend wardrobes. 
ist r.m. Could saw it in half. 
ronnie (pretending to be offended). Good God man! An 

original twentieth-century piece and you want to saw it in 

half? Alihhhhhhhh. ( Weeps upon it.) 
ist r.m. You still at school? 

RONNIE. So? 

ist r.m. Talk a lot don't you. 

ronnie. What's that got to do with school? 

ist r.m. Should' ve thought they'd taught you manners. 

sarah (coming into battle). Don't you think he's got manners 

then? 
2ND r.m. But he talks so don't he? 

ada (joining battle). Sooner he talked than he remained silent. 
ronnie. My lunatic family comes to my rescue. 
1ST r.m. I'd've clipped him round the ear if he'd' ve called me 

lunatic. 
dave. We'll have to take it back and use the front entrance. 

158 



I M TALKING ABOUT JERUSALEM 

ronnie. What's the good of me being a foreman if you don't 
listen to me. 

(Ronnie again pushes back table and box which women had 
returned.) 

ronnie. Make way, make way. The retreat! (Opens radio 
again and conducts them and symphony out of kitchen.) 

sarah. Everything he makes into a joke. 

(The men raise the wardrobe and struggle back, this time 
going round the back of the house. Ronnie pauses and 
surveys the scene.) 

ronnie. Nineteen forty-six ! The war is really over isn't it, eh, 
Mother ? Aren't you proud that your children are the first 
to pick up the ruins ? 

sarah. I'm proud, yes ! (Pushes radio lid closed.) 

ronnie. Of course proud! We just put a Labour Party in 
power didn't we ? It's right they should be the pioneers — 
good ! Ever-y-bo-dy is building. Out go the slums, whist ! 
And the National Health Service comes in. The millen- 
nium's come and you're still grumbling. What's the matter, 
you don't like strawberries and cream ? 

sarah (looking around) . Strawberries and cream ? 

ronnie. All right, so it's shmultz herring and plum pudding 
for the meanwhile. But it's a great saga you're witnessing. 
The wandering Jews strike again ! None of the easy life for 
them, none of the comforts of electricity — 

sarah. They're madmen ! 

ronnie. They don't need roads, give them a muddy lane — 

sarah. Tell me Ada, how are you going to get to the village ? 
Not even a road here there isn't. Just fields — a house in the 
middle of nowhere. 

ada. Ronnie, go and get some water for tea. 

ronnie. And none of the joys of running water for these 
brave people, a well ! A biblical well. I can see you Ada, 
like Miriam at the well and Dave will come like Moses and 

159 



ACT ONE 

drive away the strangers and draw water for you and you 
shall love him and marry him, and you shall bear him a 
son and he will be called Adam and the son shall grow 
strong and the land of Israel shall grow mighty around 
him — 
sarah. Yes, here! 

(Sarah moves to throw something on a dustheap out of 
hearing.) 
ADA. It was Zipporah and Moses anyway. 
ronnie. Zipporah. What a beautiful name. I've always 
wanted to write the Bible. Ada, haven't you ever felt 
you've wanted to sit down and write something that's 
already written ? God, how many times I've felt like com- 
posing the 'Autumn Journal'. 
(Sarah returns in time to hear this.) 
ada. What? 

ronnie. You know — Louis MacNeice — 
Sleep, my past and all my sins, 
In distant snow or dried roses 
Under the moon for night's cocoon will open 
When day begins. 
ADA. I know what you mean. 
sarah (surprised). It's wonderful, Ronnie. 
ronnie. Isn't it beautiful Mother? It's a poetry I can talk, I 
don't have to recite it. 
(As if telling her something). 

Sleep to the noises of rumiing water 

Tomorrow to be crossed, however deep; 

This is no river of the dead or Lethe, 

Tonight we sleep 

On the banks of the Rubicon — the die is cast ; 

There will be time to audit 

The accounts later, there will be sunlight later 

And the equation will come out at last. 

160 



I M TALKING ABOUT JERUSALEM 

My God, I want to write it again and again. 
Sarah. But Ronnie, you've never read me that one before. 

Now that one, that one you try and get published. 
(At this, Ada and Ronnie break into uncontrollable 
laughter. Sarah cannot understand why.) 
sarah. So what's funny? 

ronnie. Oh, Mother I love you, love you. (He cuddles her.) 
sarah (pushing him away because he tends to smother her). All 

right so you love me, love me, but what's funny? 
ronnie (picking up pail and going to get water). My mother 

encourages me — get it published she says! (Goes off 

laughing.) 
sarah. Is he gone mad or something? 
ada. Oh, Mummy, you are funny — he was quoting a poem 

by a famous poet. 
sarah. How did I get such clever children ? 
ronnie (off). Hey, Ada! How do I get the water out of this 

well? 
ada (shouting). Lift up the lid and hook the bucket on and 

just let it down. 
ronnie (after a second). Hey Ada ! There's no water in this well. 
ada (shouting). Of course there is, you idiot. 
ronnie. But I can't see it. 
ada. It's a long way down. 

ronnie. You can die of thirst before you get to the bottom. 
sarah (sighing). Ada, Ada. You're both mad. 
ada. Next time you come down, we'll have lots of improve- 
ments. 
sarah. I don't understand it, I just don't see why you have to 

come out here. Is London so bad? Millions of people live 

there ! 
ada. Thank you. 

sarah. All of a sudden they pick up and go away. 
ada (calling). Dave, where's the paraffin? 

161 



ACT ONE 

dave (off). I put it in the corner. 

ada. I see it. (Picks up paraffin and proceeds to Jill and light 
primus stove.) 

sarah. A primus stove! What's the point? All this heavy 
work. No roads, no electricity, no running water, no 
proper lavatory. It's the Middle Ages. Tell me why you 
want to go back to the Middle Ages ? 

ada. We'll get a calor gas stove in time. 

sarah. Progress! 

ada. Mummy, please, pie-ease help us. It's not easy this move, 
for any of us. Doesn't it occur to you that we desperately 
need your blessing, please — 

sarah. I'm here aren't I? Silly girl. But how can I bless — ? I 
brought up two nice children, and I want to see them 
round me — that's wrong ? But all right, so you want to go 
away, so you want to build a life of your own, but here? 
Why here ? Explain it to me, maybe I'll be happier. Why 
here? 

ronnie (off, shouting). Hey, Dave — how you managing? 

dave (off). We're managing. Just a few more stairs. 

ronnie. That's right boys — heave, heave ! 

dave. I'll heave this bloody thing on top of your head if you 
don't shut up. Go away and make some tea. 

ronnie (entering). The men want tea. Feed the workers. Hey 
Addie — you know what I discovered by the well? You 
can shout ! It's marvellous. You can shout and no one can 
hear you. 

ada (triumphantly). Of course! 

sarah (derisively). Of course. 

ronnie. Of course — listen. (Goes into garden and stands on a 
tea chest and shouts.) Down with capitalism! Long live the 
workers' revolution! You see? And long live Ronnie Kahn 
too! (Waits for a reply.) No one argues with you. No one 
says anything. Freedom ! You can jump about. (Jumps off 

162 



I M TALKING ABOUT JERUSALEM 

chest.) You can spin in the air. (Jumps and spins with arms 
akimbo) You can do somersaults . . . (He rolls on the grass 
shouting 'wheeeee'.) You can bang the earth. (He thumps the 
ground with his fists with utter joy.) My God. — it's wonder- 
ful — you can go mad all on your own and no one'll say 
anything. (Sits up wide-eyed.) 

sarah. He's not my son. I'll swear he's not my son. 

ronnie (crawling on all fours up to the kitchen door). Of course 
I'm not your son. My real mother was a gipsy and lived in 
a caravan, and one day she came to your door and instead 
of buying flowers from her you bought me. And every- 
one believed us. They used to look at you, and then at me 
and say no — no, it's true, he doesn't look like you does he ? 

sarah. Make the tea. 

ronnie (springing up). Where's the kettle? 

ada. In one of the boxes. 

ronnie. It's like camping. 

sarah. Camping! 

ada. Finished the bread Mummy ? 

sarah. I've finished the bread. What about the soup ? 

ada. Soup? 

ronnie. She made a chicken soup last night and put it in 
bottles. She puts everything in bottles. (Looks in Sarah's 
bag.) 

sarah. And a meat pie too I made. 

ADA. Oh Mummy, you shouldn't have. 

sarah. I shouldn't have, I shouldn't have! Everything I 
shouldn't have. Did you think about what you were going 
to eat when you came here ? 

ada. I brought bread and tomatoes and fruit and cheese. 

ronnie. Cheese! 

sarah. As if I didn't know what you'd bring ! 

ronnie. She always offers me cheese when I'm hungry. 

ada. You're both mad. 

163 



ACT ONE 

sarah. We re mad ! My children and they still don't know how 

to organize their lives. 
ronnie {holding up jar). Bottled Chicken Soup. It looks like — 

er — hum — yes, well, I hope it tastes different. 
ada. We've only one primus so you'll have to wait until the 

water's boiled. Get out a table-cloth Ronnie. 
ronnie. A table-cloth? What, here? Now? 
ada. This place may be a shambles but I don't intend living 

as though it's one. 

(Dave and the Removal Men have returned by this time 
and Ronnie throws out a cloth assisted by Sarah.) 
ist r.m. Got a problem living here haven't you? 
2ND r.m. Ain't very modern is it, Jim? 
ronnie. Got the wardrobe in place ? 
2ND r.m. We got it through the door. 
dave. You can help me manoeuvre it later, Ronnie. 
ist r.m. What made you move here, mate? Not being nosey 

or anything, but you can't say it's everybody's choice of a 

new home. 
dave. It's a long story. 
2ND r.m. Couldn't you find a better place ? More convenience ? 

I mean it's not very sanitary, is it ? 
dave. Not easy to find the right place with little cash. Saw the 

job advertised, a cheap house for sale near by — grabbed it ! 
sarah. Hard ! Everything has to be hard for them. 
ist r.m. Still, they're young, missus, ain't they? Gotta admit 

it's fresh out here. 
2ND r.m. Too bleedin' fresh if you ask me. 
ronnie. Come on, Dave. Give them an answer. It's a golden 

opportunity this. The world has asked you why you've 

come here. There stands the world (To R. Men) and here 

stand you two. You're on trial comrade. 
ada. Don't arse around Ronnie, the men want their tea. 
ronnie. But I'm serious, girl. I want to know too. You've 

164 



I M TALKING ABOUT JERUSALEM 

always been my heroes, now you've changed course. 

You've left communism behind. — what now ? 
1ST r.m. Communist, are you? 
2ND r.m. That's a dirty word, ain't it? 
ist r.m. Not during the war it wasn't. 
ronnie. The world is waiting, Dave. 
Dave. I'm not going to make speeches, Ronnie. 
sarah. Is a reason a speech? 
dave. You can't talk about reasons, Sarah, just like that. A 

decision grows, slowly — you discover it. 
ronnie. But where did this one start? 
ada. Ceylon — 
dave. — When I was stationed out there. I was with Air Sea 

Rescue, boat building. 
ist r.m. We was in India. That's where Ted and me met. 

Decided on this game out there. 
dave. I was in India for a bit. Where were you ? 
2ND r.m. Bombay. 
dave. Karachi, me. That's where I met Libby Dobson, Ada — 

remember ? I always wrote to you about Libby Dobson ? 

Me and him were going to do everything together when 

we got back to Civvy Street. Like you two. But that was a 

ship in the night. 
ada. He made a great impression on you, though. 
ronnie. Taught me a lot. When we get straight we'll have 

him down here — shouldn't be difficult to trace him. He 

always wanted to do something like this with me. This'll 

please him this move, old Libby Dobson'd get a kick out 

of coming here. 
ist r.m. What was Ceylon like? 
dave. Beautiful island. Being a carpenter I used to watch the 

local carpenters at work. They used to make their own 

tools and sometimes they'd show me. They'd sit out on 

the beach fashioning the boats or outside their houses 

165 



ACT ONE 

planing and chiselling away at their timber, and they let 
me sit with them once they knew I was also building boats. 
And you know, one day, as I watched, I made a discovery 
— the kind of discovery you discover two or three times 
in a lifetime. I discovered an old truth : that a man is made 
to work and that when he works he's giving away some- 
thing of himself, something very precious — 

2ND r.m. We didn't see anything precious about living in 
mud huts and working in disease. 

dave. No, no. You miss the point — I'm talking about the 
way they worked, not the conditions. I know about 
disease, I know about the mud huts, but what I was 
trying to say — 

ada. It's no good trying to explain. We're here and let's — 

sarah [angrily). Ada stop it! Stop it! Impatience! What's the 
matter with you all of a sudden. Don't explain ! Nothing 
she wants to explain. No more talking. Just a cold, English 
you-go-your-way-and-I'll-go-mine ! Why ? 

ada. Because language isn't any use! Because we talk about 
one thing and you hear another that's why. 

ronnie. Come on, Dave, you haven't said enough. The world 
doesn't believe you — 

ada. The world! 

ronnie. Explain more. 

ada. Explain what? We've moved house, what's there to 
explain ? What's so exceptional ? 

sarah [posing the real question). What's wrong with socialism 
that you have to run to an ivory tower ? 

dave. Nothing's wrong with socialism Sarah, only we want 
to live it — not talk about it. 

sarah. Live it ? Here ? 

ada. Oh the city is paradise I suppose ! 

sarah. The city is human beings. What's socialism without 
human beings tell me? 

166 



I M TALKING ABOUT JERUSALEM 

dave. I know the city Sarah. Believe me sweetheart! Since 
being demobbed I've worked in a factory turning out 
doors and window frames and I've seen men hating them- 
selves while they were doing it. Morning after morning 
they've come in with a cold hatred in their eyes, brutalized ! 
All their humanity gone. These you call men ? All their life 
they're going to drain their energy into something that 
will give them nothing in return. Why do you think these 
two (the R.M.s) decided to set up on their own? Eh? I'll 
tell you — 

sarah. But this isn't a socialist society yet — 

ada. What the hell difference do you think that'll make ? All 
anyone talks about is taking over capitalist society, but no 
one talks about really changing it. 

2ND r.m. And you're going to change it? 

ist r.m. On your own, cock? 

dave. No of course we can't change it. But you see that barn 
out there? I'll work as a chippy on the Colonel's farm here 
for a year and then in a year's time that barn'll be my work- 
shop. There I shall work and here, ten yards from me, where 
I can see and hear them, will be my family. And they will 
share in my work and I shall share in their lives. I don't want 
to be married to strangers. I've seen the city make strangers 
of husbands and wives, but not me, not me and my wife. 

sarah. Words, words. 

ada. Not words. At last something more than just words. 
(Pause. Their defiance sinks in.) 

ronnie (to the R.M.s). So now you (to Ada and Dave) and 
now the world knows. And the world — will watch you. 

ist r.m. Come on China. It's time to set off. These socialists 
can't even make us a cup of tea. 

(At which point the whole Kahn family swing into action 
with regrets and apologies and thrust sandwiches and fruit 
into the arms of the startled lorry drivers.) 

167 



ACT ONE 

2ND r.m. Oi, oi ! Whoa ! Merry Christmas ! 

ist r.m. Think of us poor city sods won't you? Good luck! 

(The R.M.s go off to the lorry. We hear the lorry start, it 

revs and slowly moves off in gear. The family stands and 

watches, and waves and calls 'Goodbye,' listening till the 

sound dies away. 

Silence. 

Each feels that with the going of the lorry has gone the last of 

the old life. 

It is getting dark.) 
ronnie. Well — you're here. You've come. Welcome to the 
Shambles. 

(Dave moves to Ada and kisses her. Ronnie watches. 

Sarah sits unhappily in a chair away from them all.) 
dave. We've got a house. 
ada. We've got a house. 
dave. Tired darling ? 
ADA. A bit. 

dave. It's not such a mess. 
ada. I know. 

dave. It looks it but it's not such a mess. 
ada. I know, angel. 
dave. Are you in control ? 
ada. I'm in control. 
dave. I love you very much. 
ADA. I love you very much. 

ronnie (moving to Sarah). And I love you too sweetheart. 
(His arm round her) Look at my sister — (with mock passion) 
isn't she beautiful? 
sarah. I don't understand what went wrong, I don't under- 
stand how she can be like that. 
ada (breaking away from Dave). I'm not like anything 
Mummy, only like your daughter. (Kisses Sarah.) You 
can come and visit us. Look — (waving arms around with 

168 



I M TALKING ABOUT JERUSALEM 

mock majesty) a country house. Aren't you pleased your 
daughter's got a country house? We can entertain in 
grand style! Everyone can come for a holiday — we'll 
have the maiden aunts down! Aunty Cissie and Aunt 
Esther can come and pull up weeds for us. 

ronnie. They're really very bourgeois these idealists you know. 

sarah. So far away. 

ADA. Only a hundred miles. 

sarah. A hundred miles ! You can say it easily. And what if 
Harry gets worse? It doesn't stop at one stroke, your 
father's never been very strong. 

dave. I'm going to unpack some of the tilings upstairs. 

ADA. Light the tilly lamp for me darling before you go up. 
Supper won't be long. (Dave does so.) 

ronnie. I'm going to look over the district. I bet there are 
hidden treasures and secret hideouts. 

sarah. Take your raincoat. (Ronnie does so.) 

dave. I suppose I'll have to take a candle up with me. 

ADA. Come on Mummy. Let's get some supper ready. 

sarah. Do you have to work any more Dave? Can't you rest 
a little? 

dave. I'll prepare some beds and take out some of the clothes 
and hang them. We'll get straight bit by bit. No sense in 
rushing it. They're good things these lamps. There ! It's 
alight. (A soft glow covers part of the kitchen.) 

ada. A lovely light. 

sarah. It took someone all this time to discover electricity — 
he shouldn't have bothered ! 

(Dave smiles, shakes his head and goes off upstairs. The 
women busy themselves. They tidy the general mess and then 
lay plates and knives and forks on the table. Ada's movements 
are slow and calm. Sarah is volatile and urgent, though 
somehow she manages to speak slowly and with deliberation 
— softly. The atmosphere sinks in. Then — ) 

169 



ACT ONE 

sarah. And Dave doesn't like me — you know that? 

(Ada doesnt reply. Silence. They continue moving around.) 
I don't know why it should be that he doesn't like me. 
I don't think I've ever done anything to hurt him. [Pause.) 
Perhaps that's why he's taking you away, because he 
doesn't like me. Who knows ! 

(Still Ada does not reply — instead she very softly starts 
humming.) 
He's changed you. Dave's changed a lot from the old days, 
Ada. (Pause.) Or perhaps he hasn't, perhaps it's me. Who 
knows. I know he fought in Spain, he's really a wonderful 
boy but — Ach ! children ! You bring them up, you teach 
them this you teach them that, you do what you think is 
right and still it's no good. They grow up and they grow 
away and you're left with — with — ! Where do their 
madnesses come from? Who knows. 7 don't know why 
Dave doesn't like me. 

(Still no word from Ada. She hums perhaps a little louder) 

sarah. What you humming for? Humming ! All of a sudden 

she does this humming when I talk to her. A new madness. 

Stop it Ada. Stop it ! Silly girl. 

(An elderly gentleman appears. He is Colonel Dewhurst, 

the farmer for whom Dave will he working. He comes 

from the path and knocks on the kitchen door just as Sarah 

finishes.) 

colonel (#5 door is opened to him). Mrs Simmonds? I'm 

Colonel Dewhurst. 
ada. Oh hello, come in please, we're still unpacking so 

forgive — 
colonel. But I understand, ma'am, I just thought — 
ADA. This is my mother. Mother, Colonel Dewhurst, Dave's 

employer. 
colonel (shaking hands). How do you do, ma'am. You must 
be very tired. Come a long way today, haven't you? 

170 



I M TALKING ABOUT JERUSALEM 

ADA (calling). Dave! Dave! Colonel Dewhurst. 

dave. I'm coming down, a second. 

ada. Do sit down please. 

colonel. I was telling your mother you've come a long way 

today. 
ada. Yes, we have. 
colonel. It must seem strange. 
sarah. It seems very strange. 
ada. My mother thinks we're mad Colonel. 
colonel. To come to the country ? A fine life, a fine life. 
sarah. With no sanitation or electricity ? 
colonel. Thousands of places like that, thousands ! But it's a 

large house, fresh air — 
sarah. There are parks in London. 
colonel. I wouldn't change now. 
sarah. Maybe you've got some amenities my children 

haven't ? 
colonel. But they're young, aren't they? It's good they 

start off with a struggle, makes them appreciate life — 
sarah (to Ada). We brought you up with riches I suppose? 
dave (appearing and shaking hands). Hello Colonel Dewhurst. 
colonel. I thought I'd drop over and see you were arriving 

safely. 
dave. That's very good of you. 
colonel. It won't take you long to get used to it. It's a bracing 

life in the country. 
dave. We're not rushing things. I think we'll manage. 
colonel. Of course you will, yes, I'm sure. When do you 

think you'll be able to start — er — you know, when can 

I expect — 
dave. Well I hoped you wouldn't mind giving us a few days 

to settle in and get our bearings. 
colonel. Yes, well, there's no need to come in tomorrow, I 

think that'll be all right, yes, that'll be all right. But my 

171 



ACT ONE 

foreman is waiting to start some fencing — want to get a 
few more sows in. He's been waiting a long time for a 
carpenter. No, no need to come in tomorrow — early 
start the next day'll do, do perfectly. 

dave. Thanks. 

colonel. Yes, well, thought I'd pop over and see you were 
arriving safely. Come at a good time — we've had some 
rain but it's gone. Doesn't do to have too much rain. 

ada (not really knowing the reply). No it doesn't does it? 

colonel. Talking of rain, Simmonds, I'd advise you to buy 
yourself a tank to catch the soft water. Good stuff, that. 
Save you work, too. Not so much to pull up from the 
well. Buy one with a tap — easier. Don't drink it, though. 
Use it for washing and things. 

dave. Thank you for telling us. 

colonel. I'll see you right. (Walks out into the garden. Dave 
and Ada follow to doorway.) You'll learn lots of things as 
you go along. (Looks around.) Good garden here. Grow 
your own veges. Apple tree there. Prune it a bit. Sturdy 
barn too, couple hundred years old. Use it for chickens, 
build a run inside it. You could do that, couldn't you? 
Build yourself a chicken run? 

dave. I expect so. A little bit of intelligence can build you 
anything. 

colonel (suddenly become the employer). Eight o'clock on 
Wednesday morning, then, Simmonds. Good night to you 
both. (Goes off.) 

(Dave and Ada stand a second and look at each other.) 

sarah. That's the man you're working for? 

ada (to Dave). He didn't give you much time to settle in did 
he? 

dave. No, he didn't did he? 

sarah. You won't have time to scratch yourself, I'm telling 
you. 

172 



I M TALKING ABOUT JERUSALEM 

ADA. Well perhaps he needs you. 

dave (certain). I'm sure he does. (Not so certain) But I reckon 
he could have given us a couple of days to settle in. 

ADA. Yes he could have. 

dave. We're still rushing — 

ada. Seems like it. 

(They are disappointed. Sarah watches them sadly.) 

sarah. Oh my children, children ! Straight away they want to 
walk into paradise. Perhaps it's a good thing you should 
start work so soon, you'll settle in the house gradually and 
working will get you into a stride, a routine. Always have 
a routine. 

ada (brightening at this). Perhaps Mum is right darling. Per- 
haps it's better to get stuck in straight away. 

dave. No moping you mean ? 

ada. I mean have no time to think we've done the wrong 
thing. 

dave. You don't think we've done the wrong thing do you 
darling. 

ADA. No — I do not. 

dave. I do love you. (Kisses her briefly.) 

ADA. Come on, let's get this food over with. Where's Ronnie ? 

sarah. Looking for hidden treasure. 

dave. He's what? 

sarah. He's gone out exploring — in the mountains there. 
(Waves vaguely.) 

ada. There aren't any mountains in Norfolk Mother. 

sarah. I'm very surprised. 

dave. What's that fire there? 

(They all look at a red glow coming from behind the barn. 
Dave and Ada rush off to one side of the barn.) 

dave. I hope the bloody fool hasn't been up to any of his 
tricks. 

(Sarah stands looking in the direction theyve gone. After a 

173 



ACT ONE 

few seconds Ronnie strolls in from the other side of the barn. 
He walks in a kind of daze, clutching a branch, gazing into 
space.) 
ronnie. You can build fires under the night sky. 
sarah. What've you been up to you mad boy ? 
ronnie. There's bracken in every hedge and you can make 

fires with them. 
sarah. Have you set the barn on fire ? 
ronnie. It's beautiful. 

sarah. For God's sake stop playing the fool and answer me. 
ronnie (looking around him). It's all very beautiful. 

(Ada and Dave appear). 
ada. Ronnie, you are a nitwit, you could have set the whole 

place alight. 
ronnie. Oh no. I know about these things. 
sarah. What did he do? I can't get any sense out of him. 
dave. It's all right — he made a camp fire, don't panic, 
nothing's burning. Let's eat. 

(They settle down to eat except Ronnie, who for the 
moment leans against a box, still enraptured.) 
sarah. He's so mad. I get so angry sometimes. Look at him, 
in a daze. Take your raincoat off and sit down and eat. 
(Ronnie sits down at the table but doesnt take off his 
raincoat) 
ada. What are you sitting down in your raincoat for ? 
ronnie. Somehow I feel, I feel — I . . . (unable to explain) 
ada. Yes, yes, but why are you eating with your raincoat on? 
sarah. Another madness ! Every so often he gets a madness 
into his head and you can't shake him out of it. I get so 
annoyed. Ronnie, take your raincoat off! 
dave. What are you getting upset for, both of you. The boy 

wants to eat in his raincoat let him eat in his raincoat. 
ADA. He's not normal ! 
dave. All right so he's not normal, why should you worry. 

174 



I M TALKING ABOUT JERUSALEM 

ADA. I do worry. I'm not going to sit at the table with him 
while he's wearing a raincoat. Ronnie take your raincoat 
off! 
(Ronnie continues eating.) 
sarah. I don't know what makes him like this. Ronnie 

take your raincoat off! 
ADA. He's so bloody stubborn. Ronnie! 
dave. You and your mother, you're both the same. Why 
don't you leave the boy alone. What harm is he doing in 
a raincoat. 
ada. Because it annoys me that's why ! (to Dave) Don't side 
with him Dave because if you side with him he knows he 
can get away with it. 

(Sarah rises at this point and goes to a corner of the room 
where she finds an umbrella) 
dave. Now look at us ! Here we are quarrelling among our- 
selves just because your brother is sitting down at the table 
wearing a macintosh. Have you ever heard such lunacy? 
What's your mother up to ? 

(Sarah sits at the table and opens the umbrella over her and 
proceeds to eat. Everyone looks at her in amazement. Sud- 
denly Ronnie bursts out laughing, jumps up from the chair, 
kisses her, and takes off his raincoat. Dave sees what has 
happened and laughs also. There is great merriment) 
dave. Well if you Kahns aren't the most lunatic family I know. 
{They all begin to eat. Sarah twists the umbrella once on her 
shoulders, sticks her hand out to see if the 'rain has finished, 
and then folds up the umbrella and eats.) 
sarah. Don't I know my children ! 
dave. You're all so much alike, that's why. 

(They eat on in silence for a moment until suddenly Sarah 
gets up from the table and moves quickly out from the kitchen 
to the garden where she takes a handkerchief from her apron. 
She weeps a little. Ronnie rises and goes to the door) 

175 



ACT ONE 

ronnie. Sarah? 

sarah. It's all right, I'm all right, leave me, go back inside and 
finish eating. 
(Ronnie returns.) 
ronnie. Tears again. 
ada. I guessed this might happen. Perhaps she shouldn't have 

come. 
dave. Can you blame her darling ? Ronnie, sit down and let's 

finish this food. 
ronnie. I'm not really hungry. (Half annoyed) She always 

makes it seem like the end of the world when she cries. 
sarah (from the garden). You know, it reminds me of Hungary, 

where I was born — 
ada. There, she's better again. 

sarah. There used to be high mountains and a river and a 

waterfall; my brother Hymie once fell into the river and 

I saved him. He nearly drowned. The mountains had snow 

on them. 

ronnie (calling to her). But there aren't any mountains or 

waterfalls here Mother. 
sarah (after a pause, petulantly). It still reminds me of Hungary. 
ada. Everything reminds her of Hungary. We were listening 
to Beethoven the other night and she swore black and blue 
it was based on a Hungarian folk song. 
ronnie. I'll wash up. 
dave. Come on, let's finish unpacking. 

(Ronnie takes what remains of the water in the kettle and 
pours it into a basin, shakes some soap powder into it and 
begins to wash up. Ada and Dave stand by one oj the boxes, 
take out the contents one by one, unwrap them and lay them 
aside. Sarah enters, takes a dishcloth and begins to wipe 
up what Ronnie washes. As they do this Sarah begins to 
sing a soft and melodic Yiddish folk song. She cant re- 
member past the first line. Ronnie picks up and reminds 

176 



I M TALKING ABOUT JERUSALEM 

her. They sing together. Ronnie indicates to Ada to join in, 
she does so and in turn brings in Dave. The new life has 
started and some of the old has come with them, and — ) 

THE CURTAIN FALLS 



177 



ACT TWO 

Scene i 

July 1947. 

Everything is more in order now. Twelve months have passed 
and with it their first winter. 

A signpost saying 'Y.H.A.', with an arrow, leans against a wall, 
waiting to be knocked into the ground. 

The stage is empty. Dave appears singing 'Linden Lea and 
carrying a roll of linoleum, which he lays down by the back door. He 
has just returned from work. At the door he pauses and looks out, 
surveying the countryside. From a room upstairs, Ada calls out. 

ada. Dave? 

dave. Yes sweetheart. 

ada. My God, what time is it? 

dave. About five fifteen. Is Libby here ? 

ada. No, he'll be back soon. I'm just finishing this letter. 

dave. It's all right, don't rush. 

ada. Dave — when did we arrive here ? 

dave. Roughly twelve months ago. 

(Dave stays by door and begins to unbutton his tall hoots. 
After some seconds Ada appears. She is pregnant. She greets 
Dave with a kiss and then he nods his head towards the view. 
They both gaze at it a while and inhale deeply.) 

ada. The corn is yellow now. 

dave. Colours for each season. The children will love it. 

ada. We'll teach the children to look at things won't we 
Dave ? I shall make it into a sort of game for them. Teach 
thtm to take notice. [With mock pomp) Don't let the 
world pass you by, I shall tell them — (breathing deeply) 
breathe, I shall say, breathe deeply and fill your lungs and 
open your eyes. For the sun, I shall say, open your eyes 
for that laaaarge sun. 

178 



I M TALKING ABOUT JERUSALEM 

dave. Not long ago that field was brown. What does Libby 

say to it all, now he's had a chance to look around? We 

didn't get much of a chance to talk last night because he 

arrived so late. 
ada. A very strange fish your friend Libby Dobson. He 

doesn't quite fit the picture you painted of him does he ? 
dave. No he doesn't does he ? What's he been up to all day ? 
ada. I packed him up some sandwiches and he went out for a 

day's walking. God knows where. He stood out here and 

he looked around and he said 'It's all sky isn't it?' and then 

he stalked off with a 'see you'. 
dave. He looked very sad and worn old Libby — never 

thought he'd end up a — what does he call himself? 
ada. A business consultant. 

dave. He was a bloody fine mechanic in the raf. 
ada. You're disappointed aren't you darling ? 
dave. Yes I am — daft, but I am. You know there's always 

one person you want to show your life to — show what 

you've done — and I've thought Libby Dobson was the 

bloke — should' ve thought he'd've understood. Blimey ! 

the man had a hand in shaping my ideas — people ! Well 

that's people I suppose. 
ada. Maybe he'll be better after a day's walk. Get me some 

water look or he'll come and nothing'll be ready and then 

he will be riled. 
dave. Riled! You're a real Norfolk girl already. (Holding 

her) Let's pretend he's not here and let's go to bed and just 

he there. 
ada. Let's get this one over first. 
dave. We'll leave a note for old Dobson and he can get his 

own supper. 
ADA. Darling the water. 

dave. He's a big boy — he can look to himself. 
ada. Besides Vm — we're — hungry. 

179 



ACT TWO 

dave. Water. 

(He goes off singing 'Linden Lea and Ada goes in to lay a 
salad. Dave begins to talk to her from the back of the house.) 
dave (off). Darling we must start making new plans. 
ada. I'm making a salad for supper. 
dave. What? 
ada. Salad! 
dave. Plans! 
ada. What? 
dave. Plans! 
ada. No, salad ! 

(Dave appears at window to kitchen.) 
dave. Let's get together — what are you talking about? 
ada. I said I'm making a salad for supper. 
dave. Oh. And I said we must start making new plans. We'll 

start again. (Returns to well.) 
ADA (waits, then calls). What plans? 
dave (off). I want to build a chicken hut — 
ADA. Lovely — 
dave. And then I want to start laying a concrete floor in the 

barn so that I can build a proper workshop. 
ada. Have you ever laid a concrete floor before ? 
dave. I hadn't ever made a piece of furniture before had I ? 

You learn. You think about it and you learn. How many 

more buckets of water do you want for Christ's sake ? 
ada. Just fill the copper. 
dave. But I fdled it this morning. 
ada. And I used it this morning. 

(Dave enters, puffed out, carrying a bucket of water.) 
ada. Here, put the spare one in the jug. 

(Ada draws a jug from under the sink.) 
dave. And that's another thing. I've got to take a pipe from 

the sink to the well and run it into a drain outside. 
ada. A plumber too. 

180 



I M TALKING ABOUT JERUSALEM 

dave. And then we must start thinking about buying a soft 
water tank, that'll save arms at the well. 

ada. Darling, I need storage space. The one cupboard you 
built there isn't enough. 

dave. In time my darling, all in good time. We've made our 
garden grow haven't we? We've made our garden grow 
and we've stopped our roof from leaking. I've boarded the 
old stables up and laid by timber ready to work. The rooms 
are painted white and nearly all the windows have curtains, 
and in three months' time I reckon I can start on my own. 
Look, only the hedges are wild. All in good time my darl- 
ing. 

ada. And Mummy asks us what we do with our time. 
They're mad. 

dave. Think we'll stick it out ? 

ada. What the hell kind of question is that — 

dave. Relax Ada — you've gone all tense — you'll give birth 
to a poker. 

ada. Dave, and that's another thing. I'm worried about the 
baby. I've been reading that — 

dave. Whatever you've been reading forget it ! Look at you, 
you're so healthy. Your belly is high and the baby is 
probably so big that he's bored with it all. (Puts his ear to 
her stomach and has a conversation with the baby.) Listen, he's 
talking. 

ada. You're mad darling. 

dave. I tell you he's talking. Yes. Yes, I can hear you — 
sounds like a dozen drains emptying — what's that? You 
don't want to come out? But you've got to come out, I 
don't care how comfortable it is you'll get cramp. No I'm 
not going to send a bloody taxi for you — you'll walk. 
Now you listen to me, you come out when you're told or 
I'll plug you in there for life — you hear me ? 

ada. Dave, for God's sake, don't be crude. 

181 



ACT TWO 

dave (snuggling up to her). Yes, let's be crude. 
ADA. In the middle of fields ? 

dave. Right in the middle of fields, one night, at full moon. 

(At this moment Libby Dobson appears. He's stocky, 

about 30 years old, and looks as though he wants to he a 

fisherman and can only he one on holidays.) 

dobson. Quite a hideout you've got here, haven't you? 

dave (hopefully). What do you think of it now you've seen it 

Libby ? 
dobson. You're going to turn it into a youth hostel? 
dave. Got to make some spare cash somehow mate. 
dobson. These places really do cater for the hale and bloody 

hearty, don't they? There — (puts two bottles on the table) 

wine for the table and the whisky's for me. I'm going up 

to change. (Goes off.) 
dave. Well, I wonder what sort of evening this is going to be ? 
ADA (picking up a bucket of waste from under sink and throwing it 

outside back door). It'll be all right Dave. People aren't ever 

as you remember them — you'll just have to get to know 

each other again. 

(Outside Ada notices the rolls of linoleum. Puts down bucket 
and undoes them.) 
ada. What's this darling ? 
dave. Some old lino the Colonel threw away. We can use 

that in the hallway. 
ada. Threw away? 
dave. Well I saw it lying around in the shed. It's been there 

for months. 
ada. Did you ask him ? 
dave. But it's been lying around for ages. 
ada. Dave I'm not very moral about taking odd things from 

employers but I'd hate to have him — 
dave. It's all right sweetheart I tell you. 
ADA. You say it's all right but — 

182 



I'M TALKING ABOUT JERUSALEM 

dave. Ada, the supper. Libby's hungry and so am 1. 1 want to 
wash. (Pours himself water into bowl and strips to the waist 
to wash, as Ada proceeds to lay the table) 
ADA. Shall I bring out the wine glasses? 
dave. Bring out the wine glasses. 
ADA. Darling don't be cross. 
dave. But you go on so. 
Ada. I don't want things to go wrong. 
dave. Well a lot will go wrong — so ? Are you going to get 

upset each time ? 
ADA. Will you light the lamp when you've finished please? 
dave. I mean a lot is going to go wrong isn't it? 
ADA. This is different, I — 

(Dobson returns at this point and sits down, waiting for the 
next move. Remember, he has already caught them embracing. 
Dave and Ada glance at each other, Dave shrugs his shoul- 
ders. Ada proceeds to lay out a clean shirt for Dave, he is 
drying himself. The rest of this scene happens while Ada 
prepares a salad. They never get round to eating it.) 
ADA. Don't forget the lamp when you've done please Dave. 
dobson. Tilly lamps — the lot. You two have really taken your 

backward march seriously, eh ? Dead serious — cor ! 
dave. Libby — what is it mate, come on, out with it — 

what's nettled you ? 
dobson. Oh no, Simmonds, please. No old chums and their 
war memories — I'm on holiday. I'll help you chop your 
wood — I'll even dance round the may-pole with you — 
but no heart-searching, I'm a tired man. 

(Throughout an awkward silence the lamp is lit. During this 
next scene Dobson drinks his whisky, becoming more and 
more tipsy; just now he stares at the sky.) 
dobson. The countryside smells like a cow with diarrhoea. 
ADA. Perhaps your nose is still full of smoke and petrol fumes. 
dobson. Jesus ! I could' ve recognized that remark a mile off. 

183 



ACT TWO 

If I hadn't known, it would have told me your whole story. 
Our horrible industrial civilization. We hate the large, 
inhuman cities. Eh? Back to nature, boys. 
(An embarrassed silence.) 

ada (to Dave). I had a letter from Ronnie today. 

dave. What does your mad brother say? 

ada. You remember Ins girl friend Jacqueline ? The one he 
told us knew it all? Well he's come to the dramatic con- 
clusion that people who are similar aren't much good to 
each other so he's going to marry a prostitute ! 

dobson. Oh God ! I bet your mother's in the Salvation Army. 
(Ada and Dave laugh uproariously at this.) 

ada. Can you imagine Sarah in the Salvation Army? 'Com- 
rades, Jesus Christ was the first communist to be born 
among us.' 

dobson. Now the picture is complete. Two ex-communists ! 
There's nothing more pathetic than the laughter of people 
who have lost their pet faith. 

(The laughter is dead. That was a bomb.) 

dave. What the hell is the matter with you Libby? Within a 
few minutes you've called us idealists as if you were swear- 
ing at us, and then you express disgust because you think 
we've lost our faiths. 

ada. Let's have some of your wine shall we? 

dobson. Yes, let's. 

dave. You're being offensive Libby. 

dobson (wearily). Oh, come off it! I'm a cynic. You can 
recognize a cynic, can't you? You should be using me, 
sharpening your ideas on me. The more sceptical I be- 
come the higher your ideals should soar, shouldn't they ? 
Eh ? Well, soar then — soar ! Be heroic ! There's nothing 
wrong with idealism, only when it's soft and flabby. The 
smell of petrol in my nose ! So what ! You can't change 
the world because it smells of petrol. 

184 



I M TALKING ABOUT JERUSALEM 

ADA. Who's talking about changing the world? 

dobson. Then go home. Be good children and go home, 
because you'll never make the beautiful, rustic estate. 

ADA. My God darling — it's come to something when we're 
sneered at for wanting beautiful tilings. 

dobson. Because it's a lie. Outdated ! Because it's not new ! 

dave. New ! New ! Everything has to be new ! Contempor- 
ary! You could walk around on your hands all day — 
that's new — but it wouldn't be achieving much would it ? 

dobson. That's better — you're bristling, you're bristling. 
Soon you'll be able to devour me. That's what a cynic's 
for, Davey mate, to be devoured, gobbled up. 

dave (to Ada). I don't understand it darling. Everyone accuses 
us of something or other — rustics, escapists, soft-headed. 
(To Dobson) You think there aren't problems here? 

ADA. There isn't a servant to draw our water, you know ? 

dave. Or a gardener to grow our vegetables. 

ADA. Do you think I'm going to have a nanny to see to my 
child? 

dave. Or that there's a private income somewhere? 

ADA. In London you waste your time solving the wrong 
problems. 

dave. Leaving early to catch the bus ! Is that living ? 

ADA. But God forbid we should ever imagine that we're 
changing that world by living here. 

dobson. Then there's not much point in doing this sort of 
thing, is there ? 

dave. Not even on an individual level ? 

dobson. What do you mean, 'an individual level' ? 

dave. For God's sake stop asking us what we mean by per- 
fectly simple phrases. 

dobson. That's just it ! They are simple phrases. Simple, inane 
and irresponsible ! Individual level ! Have you ever taken 
your ideas to their logical conclusion? Well, have you? 

185 



ACT TWO 

Hasn't a worker in a factory ever looked at you as though 
you were mad. — a little potty, you know? Would you 
have the world do without cars, planes, electricity, houses, 
roads? Because that's the logical conclusion. If no man 
should be tied to turning out screws all his life, then that's 
what it means. No screws — no transport ! No labourers — 
no roads ! No banks or offices — no commercial market ! 
No humdrum jobs, then no anything ! There you are, solve 
it! Go on. Think about it. Reorganize the world so's 
everyone's doing a job he enjoys, so everyone's 'expressing' 
himself. Go on. Universal happiness ? Get it ! 

dave. Now who's being wet? Happiness? (Mimicking) What 
do you mean by happiness ? It's the doing, the doing ! Do 
you think we care that the city was large or smelt of 
petrol? It was the boredom man — the sheer boredom. 
Nine to five ! Mass production ! Remember ? It numbed us, 
made us soggy and soft. There ! That's being soggy and 
soft ! Happiness ! My God, you cynics are the soggiest. 

dobson. Nicely, nicely, Davey. Look, only my head and arms 
are left. 

ada. You sound as though you really believe in Jerusalem. 

dobson. Shrewd girl. Of course I believe in Jerusalem, only 
I personally can't measure up to it. 

ada. Because your type always tries to win with words that's 
why — but you never do anything, you're never at peace 
long enough. 

dobson (the harshness gone). The idyll was really broken, 
wasn't it? I could see it in your faces. Dave's old blood 
brother has sold his soul. But what do you really know 
about me, that you think you can say that? 

dave. We hadn't much of a chance had we comrade ? You 
weren't exactly inviting were you? 

dobson. I've tried it, Dave — listen to me and go home — 
I've tried it and failed. Socialism? I didn't sell out that 

186 



I M TALKING ABOUT JERUSALEM 

easily. You've gone back to William Morris, but I went 
back to old. Robert Owen. Five thousand pound my old 
man left me, and I blushed when I heard it. But I still hung 
on. It's not mine, I decided — the profits of exploitation, I 
said. Right ! Give it back ! So I worked out a plan. I found 
four other young men who were bright mechanics like 
myself and who were wasting their talents earning ten 
pounds a week in other men's garages, and I said 'Here's a 
thousand pounds for each of you — no strings, no 
loans, it's yours! Now let's open our own garage and 
exploit no one but ourselves. There's only one provision, 
I said, 'only one: as soon as there is an excess profit of 
another thousand pounds, we find someone else to inherit 
it and we expand that way!' See the plan? A chain of 
garages owned and run by the workers themselves, the 
real thing, and I will build it myself. Can you imagine 
what a bloody fool they must have thought me ? Can you 
guess the hell of a time they had planning to buy me out ? 
Democracy, mate? I spit it! Benevolent dictatorship for 
me. You want Jerusalem ? Order it with an iron hand — 
no questions, no speeches for and against — bang! It's 
there ! You don't understand it? You don't want it? Tough 
luck, comrade — your children will ! ( To Ada) No peace ? 
You're right, Mrs Simmonds. I'm dirtied up. Listen to me, 
Dave, and go home before you're dirtied up. 

ADA. You've nearly finished that whisky Libby. 

dobson. Is that all you can say? I've just related a modern 
tragedy and you're warning me against alcohol. She's a 
real woman this Ada of yours. A woman dirties you up as 
well, you know. She and the world — they change you, they 
bruise you, they dirty you up — between them, you'll see. 

dave. And you call the idealist soft and flabby do you ? 

ada. Let's drop it Dave — I think Libby's had enough. 

dobson. Oh no, you mean you've had enough. The little 

187 



ACT TWO 

woman senses danger — marvellous instinct for self-pres- 
ervation. I suppose you two consider you are happily 
married for ever and ever and ever. (Pause.) I was married 
once. God knows how it happened — just after demob. I 
used to watch her as the weeks and months went by ; I used 
to sit and watch fascinated and horrified as — as she 
changed. This was before the old man died and we both 
went out to work. After supper we'd wash up and she'd 
sit by the fire and fall asleep. Just fall asleep — like that. 
She might glance at a newspaper or do a bit of knitting, 
but nothing else — nothing that might remind me she was 
alive. And her face would go red in front of the fire and 
she'd droop around and be slovenly. And I just watched 
her. She chewed food all the time, you know. Don't 
believe me ? I watched her ! Chewing all the time. Even in 
bed, before she went to sleep — an apple or a piece of 
gateau — as though terrified she wasn't getting enough 
into her for that day. And she became so gross, so undeli- 
cate, so unfeeling about everything. All the grace she had 
was going, and instead there was flesh growing all around 
her. I used to sit and watch it grow. How does one ever 
know, for Christ's sake, that a woman carries the seeds of 
such disintegration ? Then I tried what your brother wants 
to do — take a simple girl, a girl from an office, lively, un- 
cluttered. Wife number two! Just about the time I in- 
herited my five thousand pounds. A real socialist enterprise 
and a simple wife. Ironic, really. There was I putting a 
vision into practice, and there was she watching me in 
case I looked at other women — making me feel lecherous 
and guilty. She's the kind that dirties you up. There was I 
sharing out my wealth and there was she — always 
wanting to possess things, terrified of being on her own. 
She marries a man in order to have something to attach to 
herself, a possession ! The man provides a home — bang ! 

188 



I M TALKING ABOUT JERUSALEM 

She's got another possession. Her furniture, her saucepans, 
her kitchen — bang ! bang ! bang ! And then she has a baby 
— bang again! All possessions! And this is the way she 
grows. She grows and she grows and she grows and she 
takes from a man all the things she once loved him for — 
so that no one else can have them. Because, you see, the 
more she grows, ah ! the more she needs to protect herself. 
Clever ? Bloody clever ! I think I hate women because they 
have no vision. Remember that, Davey — they haven't 
really got vision — only a sense of self-preservation, and 
you will get smaller and smaller and she will grow and 
grow and you will be able to explain nothing because 
everything else will be a foreign language to her. You 
know ? Those innocent I-don't-know-what-you're-talking- 
about eyes? 

dave. Make an early night Lib by, yes ? 

(Dob-son rises, suddenly, furious at being told to go to bed. 
But his own terrible honesty defies him. He shrinks, looks at 
them for a sort of forgiveness, and then shrugging his 
shoulders turns and goes, taking maybe something to chew 
from the table.) 

ADA. Do you realize he was talking about what I might be- 
come darling ? 

dave. Are you worried ? 

ADA. Do we really appear like that to you men ? 

dave. You are worried aren't you ? 

ada. I suddenly feel unclean. 

dave. A cynic works that way darling. Perhaps he's right 
when he says we should use him, sharpen ourself on him. 
I don't know what to say — the man's certainly been 
bruised hasn't he? Does that make him more reliable or 
less — I never know. 

ada. The futile pursuit of an ideal. Suddenly it all makes me 
sick. Like eating too many good things. 

189 



ACT TWO 

dave. Right! Then enough now. We're not going to be 
dragged into this discussion again. We are not going to go 
around apologizing for the way we live. Listen to people 
and we'll go mad. Enough now ! 

(Someone is coming from the lane. A torchlight appears. A 
voice calls. It is Colonel Dewhurst.) 

colonel. Is anyone at home ? Hello there. Simmonds. 

ada. It's Dewhurst. At this hour ! (Opens door to him.) In here 
Colonel. Come in. 

colonel. Good evening. 

dave. Good evening Colonel Dewhurst. Have a seat. Would 
you like some wine ? 

colonel. This is not a social visit, Simmonds. 

dave. That sounds very ominous. 

ada. Do have wine Colonel — it's very good. 

colonel. Please, Mrs Simmonds. You're making it very 
difficult for me. 

dave. Difficult? 

colonel. I've treated you well, Simmonds, haven't I ? 

dave (not knowing how it's coming). Ye-es. 

colonel. That's right, I have. Helped you when you started. 
Gave you advice. 

dave. I'm very grateful Colonel, but — 

colonel. Well, you don't show it ! 

dave. I'm sorry but I don't know what you're talking about. 

colonel. The lino, the lino ! That's what I'm talking about, 
and you know that's what I'm talking about. Look, 
Simmonds, you're an intelligent man — you're not the 
usual sort who works for me, and I didn't expect you to 
he. Still, I didn't expect you to steal from me, but you did. 
Now don't waste time, just tell me and we'll see what we 
can do: did you or didn't you take two rolls of lino from 
the shed near the workshop ? 

dave. Those rolls you threw away and said were no use ? 

190 






I M TALKING ABOUT JERUSALEM 

ADA. Dave — 

dave. Darling — let me. No Colonel, I did. not. 

colonel. But I don't understand why you're lying. In fact I 
don't understand you at all, Simmonds. What did you 
come to the country for? It's a different way of life here, 
y'know. They're a slow people, the country people — 
slow, but sound. I know where I am with them, and 
they know their place with me. ' But with you I could 
never — 

dave. Never get the right sort of master-servant relationship ? 

colonel. Yes, if you like. But you didn't like, did you? You 
spoke to me as if I were a — a — 

dave. An equal. 

colonel. I don't like it, Simmonds. I'm not a slave driver, 
but I believe each person has his place. 

dave. You're decent like, but it's a favour like? 

colonel. Are you talking to me about decency, Simmonds ? 

dave. You didn't come all the way up that lane just to find 
out whether I stole two rolls of lino did you Colonel ? 

ada. For God's sake Dave — 

dave. Now Ada ! 

colonel. Yes I did come all the way up that lane, and I'm 
damn well furious that I had to. Listen Simmonds, I've 
got to sack you, because by now all my other men know 
you took the rolls, and they know I know, and if I don't 
sack you they'll all think they can get away with pilfering. 
But thinking you were a decent chap, I thought I'd come 
here and just tell you what a fool you'd been, and discuss 
what we could do about it. Now I find you're a petty liar 
and I'm furious, and I don't care what you do. Good 
night. 

dave. But you haven't even any proof — I mean — 

colonel. You must be insane. And what's outside your back 
door? (Silence.) Well, what is it? 

191 



ACT TWO 

dave (weakly). You said you didn't want it. 

colonel. Of course I didn't. Junk ! Two and sixpence worth 
of junk — but that isn't the point. 

ada. What is the point Colonel ? 

colonel. You don't really know the point, do you? We 
'ask', Simmonds: in my sort of society we ask. That's all. 
It's twenty-four hours' notice I'm giving, but there is no 
need to turn up tomorrow. (He leaves.) 

ada. You bring the habits of factory life with you? What got 
into you ? 

dave. Oh God. What a bloody fool I am. 

ada. But I don't understand. Didn't you know the lino was 
outside and that he might see it ? 

dave. I took a chance that it might be dark — 

ada. Oh my God ! 

dave (surprised). I feel so ashamed. 

ada. It was so humiliating — if only you'd admitted it — 

dave. To be caught for something so petty — 

ada. To be doubly caught for lying as well. 

dave. Jesus ! I feel so ashamed. 

(For some seconds Dave sits, thoroughly crushed. Ada is 
appalled and uncertain what to do.) 

ada. Well we're not going back to London because of this 
ridiculous blunder. You're so bloody soft sometimes. 

dave. Ada I'm sorry. 

ada. You'll have to start your workshop earlier that's all. 

dave. But we can't afford it. 

ada. Well we'll have to afford it. I'm not giving up. We'll eat 
less, we'll buy less, we'll do something but I'm not going 
away from all this. Thank God the house is still ours any- 
way. By Christ, Dave — your ideals have got some pretty 
big leaks in places haven't they ? 
(Dave is deeply hurt by this and Ada realizes she has 
struck deeply. Perhaps this is the first time she has ever hurt 

192 



I M TALKING ABOUT JERUSALEM 

him so deeply. They wander round the room in silence now, 
clearing up the table.) 

dave. Could you really see me leaving ? 

(More silence — the battle dies in silence and the wounds heal 
quietly. The meal is being finally set.) 

ADA. I can help mix cement for the workshop floor you 
know — I've developed big muscles from drawing water 
up the well. 

dave (looks at her gratefully). Oh God I feel such a fool. 

(Then after a second Dave lays his hands on Adas shoulders, 
takes her to a chair, sits her gently on it, places a stool under 
her feet, takes an olive branch from out of the pot and, first 
offering it to her, lays it on her lap. Then he looks around and 
finds a large red towel which he shrouds on her head and 
shoulders. Then he steps back and kneels in homage. There 
he remains for a moment till gently he laughs and gradually 
Ada laughs too. And on their laughter — ) 

THE CURTAIN FALLS 



Scene 2 

Late autumn afternoon, 1953. Six years have passed. 

The front wall of the barn has been raised, revealing a furniture- 
maker's workshop. 

Dave is just stepping out of the barn carrying, triumphantly, a 
chair that he and Sammy have just made. Sammy is Dave's 
apprentice. Dave is singing (pom-pom) 'Land of Hope and Glory' 
while Sammy is on his knees applauding and bowing at the 
spectacle. As Dave majestically lays chair on the 'horse' Sammy 
speaks. It is fine craftsmanship. 

sammy. Looks as though it's sitting down don't it! 

193 



ACT TWO 

dave. When a chair does that, it works. (Pause.) But there's 

something wrong with this one. 
sammy. Shall us have it apart? 
dave. No, no. Leave it a while. Pour us out another cuppa. 

We'll look at it. (Walks round chair.) The legs are too big. 
sammy. Hell ! Have 'em any smaller and you'll be sitting on 

the floor. 
dave. True, true. (Thinks.) A wrinkle! A little wrinkle! Old 

Dave's learnt a lot in six years. Give 'em a slight curf 

with the saw in between the joints. Won't need much. 

Now then, let's have a little clear up shall we? Get the glue 

on! 
sammy. When's he coming to see his chair? 
dave. Who, Selby? Shortly, shortly. 
sammy. I don't go much on him you know. He run a seed 

sorting factory. Selby's seeds! Old compost! And they 

reckon he don't pay his men too well neither. 
dave. Bit fly eh? 
sammy. Yearp, fly. And he started as a farm labourer hisself 

look. 
dave. Well we've agreed on a good price for the chair 

anyway. 
sammy. And you mind you stick to it too. I'll sharpen your 

chisels. (Does so.) 
dave. The boy say anything to you when you took him to 

school this morning ? 
sammy. He jabbers a lot don't he? 
dave. He's like all the Kahns. A funny kid. Comes home with 

the strangest stories. He's a smasher. Misses his mummy 

though. 
sammy. What time train is Ada catchin' from London ? 
dave. Left about twelve this morning I think. 
sammy. You heard from her ? She say how her father was ? 
dave. Not well at all, not well at all poor Harry. This is his 

194 



I M TALKING ABOUT JERUSALEM 

second stroke and it seems to have knocked him quite hard. 

(He is looking at the chair now.) I don't think I will. I'll 

leave the seat as it is. Once you start taking off a piece here 

and there it makes it worse. It's not all that out of pro- 
portion. What say you bor ? 
sammy. Well listen to you then ! What say you bor ! A proper 

Norfolk article you're talking like. 
dave. You taking the mickey out of me? (Throws a handful of 

shavings over Sammy s head) Are you? (Another) Are you? 

Are you? Eh? 
(Sammy throws back shavings, at which Dave cries 'War !' 
and picks up a stick. A fencing duel takes place till Sammy 
falls defeated) 
sammy. Hey pack it in ole son, Mister what's-his-name'll be 

here soon to have a look at this here squatting chair of his. 
dave. Look at this mess you've made. Sweep it up at once. 

Untidy ole bugger. 

(Sammy gathers shavings on his hands and knees with brush 
and pan. He wants to say something to Dave, and is uncer- 
tain how to start) 
sammy. Dave, it'll be a while before Ada come won't it ? 
dave. Yes. 

sammy. I want a little word with you then. 
dave. Go on son. I'm listening, but I must get this ready for 

glueing. 
sammy. I want to leave soon. 
dave. That was a very short word. Leave ? 
sammy. I aren't satisfied Dave. 
dave. Satisfied? 

sammy. Well I don't seem to be getting anywhere then. 
dave. But you're learning something boy, you're learnin' to 

do something with your hands. 
sammy. But nothing a factory can't do just as well as what we 

do. 

195 



ACT TWO 

dave (shocked). Have you ever seen inside a factory? You 
want to stand, by a machine all day? By a planer or a 
sander or a saw bench? 

sammy. They change around all the time. 

dave. Excitement! You change machines! Big difference! 
All your life Sammy, think of it, all your life. 

sammy. But you get more money for it. 

dave. That I do not have an answer to. (Pause.) Sammy, 
remember that chair ? Remember what you said about it ? 
It looks as though it's sitting down you said. That's poetry 
boy, poetry ! No not poetry, what am I talking about. Er — 
it's — it's — O Jesus how do you start explaining this 
tiling. Look Sammy, look at this rack you made for your 
chisels. Not an ordinary rack, not just bits of wood nailed 
together, but a special one with dove-tail joints here and a 
mortise and tenon joint there, and look what you put on 
the side, remember you wanted to decorate it, so you 
used my carving tools and you worked out a design. For 
no reason at all you worked out a design on an ordinary 
chisel rack. But there was a reason really wasn't there? 
You enjoyed using those tools and making up that design. 
I can remember watching you — a whole afternoon you 
spent on it and you used up three pieces of oak before you 
were satisfied. Twenty-seven and six you owe me. 

sammy. Hell, that were only messing around. 

dave. Not messing around. Creating ! For the sheer enjoyment 
of it just creating. And what about the fun we had putting 
up this workshop ? 

sammy. It's not that I don't enjoy myself Dave. 

dave. But that's not all cocker. It's not only the fun or the 
work — it's the place. Look at it, the place where we work. 
The sun reaches us, we get black in the summer. And any 
time we're fed up we pack up and go swimming. Don't 
you realize what that means? There's no one climbing on 

196 



I M TALKING ABOUT JERUSALEM 

our backs. Free agents Sammy boy, we enjoy our work, 
we like ourselves. 

sammy. You think I don't know these things, hell Dave. But 
I've seen the boys in the village, I know them, they don't 
care about things and I see them hang around all their lives, 
with twopence halfpenny between them an' half a dozen 
dependents. But I want to get on — don't you think I 
ought to get on? 

dave. A bait ! A trap ! Don't take any notice of that clap-trap 
for God's sake boy. For every hundred that are lured only 
one makes it. One, only one. Factories? Offices? When 
you're in those mate you're there for good. Can't you see 
that? (No answer.) No, you can't can you? Of course you 
can't. Jesus, I must be mad to imagine I could fight every- 
one. Sammy, I'm sorry mate — I just — 
(At this moment Ada appears. She looks pale and weary) 

dave. Ada! Sweetheart! (He doesnt know who to talk to first.) 

sammy. I'm away home to my tea now Dave. See you 
tomorrow. How are you Ada ? (Retires quickly.) 

dave. Sammy, think again boy, we'll talk some more to- 
morrow, we'll talk tomorrow, you hear? 

ADA. What's been happening ? 

dave. He wants to leave. Work in a factory. Ada, how ill you 
look. (Goes to embrace her, she takes his kiss but does not 
respond.) 

ada. I met Selby in the village. 

dave. And? 

ada. He wants to cancel the order for the chair. 

dave. Cancel it? But it's made. 

ada. The price is too high he says. 

dave. High? But we agreed — the bastard. That's the third 
person's done this on me. Blast them, all of them. Twen- 
tieth-century, short-sighted, insolent, philistine type 
bastards ! And the world depends upon them, you know 

197 



ACT TWO 

that Ada? Oh sweetheart, what an awful welcome. 
(Again he moves towards her but she moves away to sit on a 
stool) 
What is it Ada? Why don't you let me touch you all of a 
sudden, so long and — O my God, it's Harry, idiot I am, 
I didn't ask, he's not . . . 

ada. No, he's not dead. 

dave. Then how is he ? 

ADA. He was raving when I got there. 

dave. Raving ? Old Harry ? 

ada. The second stroke affected his brain. He was in a padded 
cell. 

dave. O God, Ada — 

(Dave stretches to her but she continues to refuse his comfort.) 

ada. He didn't recognize me at first. He was tying on his back. 
You know how large his eyes are. They couldn't focus on 
anything. He kept shouting in Yiddish, calling for his 
mother and his sister Cissie. Mummy told me he was 
talking about Russia. It seems when they first brought 
him into the ward he threw everything about — that's 
why a cell. He looked so frightened and mad, as if he were 
frightened of his own madness. 

dave. But what brought it on? I mean don't the doctors 
know ? 

ada. A clot of blood. It's reached the brain. And then he 
recognized me and he looked at me and I said 'Hello 
Daddy — it's Ada' and he started screaming in Yiddish 
'Dir hasst mir, dir hasst mir, dir host mirch alle mul ger 
hasst!' You hate me and you've always hated me. (She 
breaks down uncontrollably.) Oh darling I haven't stopped 
crying and I don't understand it, I don't understand it 
because it's not true, it's never been true. 

(Dave holds her tightly as she cries, and smothers her with 
kisses.) 

198 



I M TALKING ABOUT JERUSALEM 

dave. Hush darling, gently, gently. It was a sick man scream- 
ing, a sick man, hush — O good God. 

(They stand a while. Then Ada pulls away and starts 
mechanically unpacking her case) 

ADA. He smiled and kissed me a lot before I left, it was an 
uncanny feeling, but you know Dave (surprised at the 
thought) I feel like a murderer. 

dave. Ada! You gone mad? A murderer ? Stop this nonsense. 
You think you were responsible for his illness ? 

ADA (calmly). No, I don't think I was responsible for his illness 
and neither did I hate him. But perhaps I didn't tell him I 
loved him. Useless bloody things words are. Ronnie and 
his bridges ! 'Words are bridges' he wrote, 'to get from one 
place to another.' Wait till he's older and he learns about 
silences — they span worlds. 

dave. No one made any rules about it. Sometimes you use 
bridges. Sometimes you're silent. 

ADA. What bridges? Bridges! Do you think I know what 
words go to make me? Do you think I know why I 
behave the way I behave? Everybody says I'm cold and 
hard, people want you to cry and gush over them. (Pause.) 
During the war, when you were overseas, I used to spend 
nights at home with Sarah and the family. There was 
never a great deal of money coming in and Mummy some- 
times got my shopping and did my ironing. Sometimes she 
used to sit up late with me while I wrote to you in Ceylon, 
and she used to chatter away and then — fall asleep. She'd 
sit, in the chair, straight up, and fall asleep. And every 
time she did that and I looked at her face it was so sweet, so 
indescribably sweet — that I'd cry. There ! Each time she 
fell asleep I'd cry. But yet I find it difficult to talk to her ! 
So there ! Explain it ! Use words and explain that to me. 

dave. What's going to happen to Sarah, Ada? Do you reckon 
we ought to think about returning? 

199 



ACT TWO 

ada (turning to him, slowly and deliberately). Dave, listen to me. 
My mother is a strong woman. She was born to survive 
every battle that faces her. She doesn't need me. You say 
I'm like her? You're right. I'm also strong, I shall survive 
every battle that faces me too, and tins place means survival 
for me. We — are — staying — put ! 

(Dave takes her hands and kisses them, then her lips. A 
child's voice calls: 'Mummy, Ada, Mummy, Ada, 
Mummy, Ada!') 
dave. It's the boy. Watch how pleased he'll be, he kept asking 
when you were coming. I bet you a dollar the first thing 
he'll want you to do is play your game with him. 
ada. Danny? 

danny (off, assuming a gruff voice). I'm Daniel the lion killer. 
ada. You're who ? 

danny. I've come to slay your lions for you. 
ADA. How much do you charge? 
dave (taking out his pipe). Mothers! 
danny. I charge sixpence a lion. 
ada. The last time I saw you you were so small, I don't know 

whether I could trust you to slay my lions. 
danny. I'm as tall as an elephant. 

ada. I can't possibly believe that. Come out and show your- 
self Darnel the Hon killer. 
danny. I shan't show myself until you play the game with me. 
ada. Oh ! And what is the game today Daniel ? 
danny. It is called 'Look I'm alive !' 

(Dave does a there-I-told-you-so look.) 
ada. Oh that one. All right. Are you ready ? 
danny. Yes. Now you do it with me. 

(Now Ada faces us and goes through the same actions as we 
must assume Danny does. She starts crouched down, with 
her face hidden in her arm — as in the womb) 
ada. Are you crouched down ? 

200 



I M TALKING ABOUT JERUSALEM 

danny (in his own voice). Yes Mummy. 

(Dave pulls a face at her so she draws him into the game too) 
ada. Do you mind if my friend here plays Mr Life ? (Dave 

tries to run away.) Dave! 
danny. No, hurry up, I'm getting cramp. 

(What happens from now must have the touch of magic and 
of clowning. The day has gone and now the light fades 
slowly into evening.) 
dave (bowing first to Ada, then to Danny). I am — (pause; to 

Ada) what's it? 
ada. You're Mr Life. 

dave. Oh yes, Mr Life. I am Mr Life. I have spent all day 
making furniture and now I am going to make a human 
being. You are clay and I am going to make you into a 
human being. I am going to breathe the fire of life into 
you. Hissssss, Hissssss, Hissssss. 
(As Dave breathes the fire Ada unfolds and rises very slowly 
— this is what Danny is doing unseen — her eyes are 
closed.) 
dave. Now you have life and you can breathe. 

(Ada breathes deeply.) 
dave. Now I will give you sight. 

(He snaps his fingers at Danny then at Ada. Ada opens her 
eyes. There is wonder and joy at what is revealed.) 
dave. Now I will give you movement. 

(Dave beckons to Danny then to Ada. Ada raises and lowers 
her arms twice, moving her head from left to right at the same 
time, full of curiosity and excitement at what she is doing.) 
dave. Now I will give you speech. (He draws something unseen 
from his mouth and throws it to Danny, then he kisses his 
finger and places the kiss on Ada's lips.) Tell me, what does it 
feel like to be a human being ? 
danny (in his gruff voice). It's a little strange. But I'm getting 
used to it. It's very exciting. 

201 



ACT TWO 

(Ada relaxes and becomes herself and involved in the 
questioning.) 

ADA. Now that you have eyes and tongue to see and talk and 
limbs to move — move, and tell me what you see. 

danny (in his own voice). Hedges ! 

ada. No no Daniel. That's a name, that's not what you see. 

danny (in his own voice from now on). I see thin pieces of wood. 
Going all over the place. With bumps on them, and thin 
slips of green like paper, and some funny soft stuffon them. 

ada. Now you can use names. 

danny. They're hedges with leaves and berries. 

ada. Any colours? 

danny. The hedges are brown, the leaves are green and the 
berries are red and black. 

ada (becoming excited). What else can you see O Daniel? 

danny. A blue sky with white cloud. 

ada. More? 

danny. Birds with long necks. 

ada. More? 

danny. Green fields with brown bumps. 

ada. More? 

danny. A red brick house and that's where I live. 

ada. Now you are a real human being Daniel who can look 
and think and talk and you can come out and slay the lions. 
(We hear Danny run right across the back of the stage (past 
barn and hedges) crying: 'I'm coming I'm coming I'm 
coming!' and Ada crouches down with her arms out- 
stretched to receive him as the night and — ) 

THE CURTAIN FALLS 1 



x The boy could perhaps rush on to the stage as the lights fade. Director's 
decision. 

202 



ACT THREE 

Scene i 

It is warm autumn. Three years have passed. 1956. The wall in 
front of the barn is lowered. No one works there now. 

Two women are seated in the garden. Cissie and Esther Kahn, 
maiden aunts of Ada. The first is a trade unionist, the other 
owns a market stall. Cissie is shelling peas. Esther is peeling 
potatoes. 

There is a lovely light in the sky and two deck chairs near the 
back door. 

Esther. A guest house they call it. 

cissie. Esther, stop grumbling — peel ! 

Esther. Three hundred, ditches we had to jump over before 
we even reached the house — and they advertise in news- 
papers. For peace and quiet and a modest holiday — the 
Shambles. A very inviting name. Mind you, for a dirty 
week-end, this place — you know what I mean ? 

cissie (not really minding). Why must you be so bloody crude 
Esther ? 

Esther. What's the matter — all these years you been my 
sister and you don't know me yet ? 

cissie. What time does Dave come back for lunch? 

Esther. One o'clock. 

cissie. Ada'll come back from shopping with him, I suppose. 

Esther. They better be on time else that dinner'U be burnt. 

cissie. What? 

Esther. Don't say 'what', say 'ah?' Fine bloody holiday this. 
Only two mad maiden aunts like us would do this. Do you 
realize that we haven't stopped working since we've been 
here? Look at that job we did yesterday. Pulling up weeds. 
Agricultural workers ! 

cissie. Stop grumbling. You know you're enjoying yourself. 

203 



ACT THREE 

Esther. You think they make all their other guests work 
like this ? No wonder they get so few. Cissie — I think we 
should, tell them. 

cissie. What? 

Esther. Don't say 'what', say 'all?' We should tell them that 
people when they go on holiday they don't like digging 
gardens and feeding chickens. 

cissie. Don't be daft woman. It's only us. We spoil her. Both 
her and Ronnie we spoilt. 

Esther. A guest house they call it. Not even a bleedin' flush 
lavatory. Just three hundred ditches. 

cissie. Hush Esther. 

Esther. What's the matter for Gawd's sake? You frightened 
someone'll hear me? (Shouting) Cissie, have you stopped 
peaingyet? 

cissie. So help me you're mad. 

Esther. I'm keeping in training. Though I must say this ain't 
the most inspiring place for selling underwear. I mean 
what do their guests do here? The only sights to see are 
sixty clucking hens waiting to be slaughtered — poor 
sods — and a two-hundred-year-old barn. A historical 
monument ! 

cissie. That used to be Dave's workshop. 

Esther. What did he leave it for ? 

cissie. Ada was telling me that one day about six months ago, 
he built a beautiful dressing table for someone and he had 
a lorry come to collect it, and the driver took no care on 
the bumpy lane so that by the time they reached the main 
road they'd knocked all the corners off it. A two-hundred- 
pound job it was, all his own design, ruined ! So he found a 
new workshop in the village. 

Esther. And he still can't earn money. Poor sod. He works 
hard that one — and what for ? For peanuts that's what for ! 

cissie. Well today may change all that. 

204 



I M TALKING ABOUT JERUSALEM 

Esther. You mean the loan ? 

cissie (nodding). If he's managed to persuade the bank to loan him 

money then he can buy machinery and his work'll be easier. 
Esther. Now that's something I don't understand. I can 

remember him saying when he first moved here that he 

wanted to make furniture with his own hands. Now he's 

buying machinery, he'll be like a factory only not big 

enough to make their turnover. So where's the ideals 

gone all of a sudden ? 
cissie. Esther, you're a stall-owner, you don't understand 

these things. 
Esther. All right, so I'm a coarse stall-owner. I'm a silly cow. 

So I'm a silly cow and you re a clever trade union organizer 

— you explain it to me. 
cissie. It's all got to do with the work of another socialist 

furniture-maker, William Morris. 
Esther. A yiddisha fellow? 
cissie. He was a famous person. He used to say 'Machines are 

all right to relieve dull and dreary work, but man must not 

become a slave to them.' 

ESTHER. So? 

cissie. So Ada says Dave says if he can buy a machine to saw 
the wood, and another to plane it, that will save him a lot 
of unnecessary labour and he can still be a craftsman. 

Esther. I'll tell you something Cissie ? Our nieces and nephews 
are all mad. Look at Ronnie — working in a kitchen, and 
that silly arse has fallen in love with a waitress. 

cissie. So what's wrong with a waitress? Beatie Bryant's a 
very nice girl, very active, bless her. 

Esther. I know she's a nice girl but she doesn't know what 
Ronnie's saying half the time. 

cissie. If it comes to that neither do I. You know where she 
comes from? About twenty miles from here. Ronnie met 
her when he came to work in Norwich. 

205 



ACT THREE 

(Cissie rises and enters kitchen to put peas in pot. Esther 
follows.) 

Esther. Another wandering Jew. Another one can't settle 
himself. Hopping about all over the country from one job 
to another. I'll tell you something Cissie — it's not a joke. 
Ronnie worries me. He worries me because his father was 
just the same. You know Harry? Before he fell ill? The 
way he couldn't stick at one job ? The same thing ! All over 
again. It worries me. 

cissie. Now Esther don't you ever tell him that — you hear 
me? 

Esther. Me? I wouldn't say a word! But it worries me. And 
he wants to spread socialism. Everybody's busy with 
socialism. 'Aunty Esther' he says Tve finished making 
speeches, I'm going to marry a simple girl and hand it all 
on to her.' So I says to him 'Ronnie' I says 'be careful. 
Don't hand it on to her before you're married.' The meat ! 
(Turns to oven.) 

(At this point Ada and Dave appear.) 

ada. What's happened to Aunty Esther ? 

cissie. It's all right darling, she's just gone to look at the meat. 
She always rushes like that — as if the world was on fire. 
What's the matter Simmonds? You look all done in. 

dave. Bank managers. How do you talk to them? 

cissie. Like I talk to employers when I'm negotiating a strike 
— as though you're doing them a favour by coming at all. 

Esther (coming out of the kitchen). Fifteen more minutes and 
we can eat. 

ada. You're bricks, the pair of you. 

Esther. You mean we got thick skulls ? 

cissie. Stop grumbling. 

Esther. All she can say to me is 'Esther stop grumbling.' I'm 
a happy woman, let me grumble. So tell us, what hap- 
pened? (Returns to chair in garden.) 

206 



I M TALKING ABOUT JERUSALEM 

cissie. Wait a minute, let me get my knitting. (Goes to kitchen.) 

Esther. Can't you ever sit still and do nothing ? 

cissie. No I bloody can't. The good lord gave me hands and I 

like using them. 
Esther. The good lord gave you an arse but you don't have 

to be sh . . . 
cissie. Esther! 

Esther. She's so squeamish your aunt. 
cissie (returning and sitting on deck chair). Right, now let's hear 

what happened — I'm very interested. 
ADA. I must go in and lay the table, I can hear from inside. 

(Dave moves to the barn and cleans some of his tools.) 
Esther. What's the matter with everybody? No one can sit 

still for five minutes. This one knits, this one must lay the 

table, that one mucks about with his tools — 
cissie. He's cleaning his chisels, Esther. 
Esther. Don't split hairs with me. It's a bleedin' conspiracy to 

make me feel guilty — well nuts to yers all, I'm sitting still. 

I'm a lady. A bleedin' civilized lady on holiday. Fan me 

somebody ! 
cissie. Esther, maybe the kids don't feel like joking. 
Esther. Dave Simmonds, are you going to tell us what hap- 
pened at the bank or not ? 
dave. Nothing much. He said I could have an overdraft of 

two hundred pounds but no loan. 
Esther. So what you feeling unhappy for ? With an overdraft 

you can lay down deposit on two machines and pay off 

over three or five years. Who buys anything outright these 

days anyway. 
dave. Yeah. 
cissie. Hey Addie — what kind of school dinners does 

Danny get? 
Esther. A real grasshopper mind you've got. Can't you stick 

to one subject at a time? 

207 



ACT THREE 

cissie. Leave off Esther, can't you see the boy doesn't want to 
talk about it. 

(Ada comes out of the kitchen. She is rubbing her hands and 
face on a towel very slowly. Although she looks red-eyed 
from washing, she really has been crying and is covering up 
with a wash.) 
ada. They're not bad. A little bit dull but he gets plenty of it. 
esther. Have you been crying Ada? 
cissie. Leave off Esther, I tell you. 

Esther. For crying out loud what's been happening to you 
two? 

(Dave looks up and sees that, in fact, Ada has been crying. 
He lays down his saw, approaches her and takes her in his 
arms. After a bewildered moment of looking at them and each 
other — ) 
cissie and) {between them). Ah Ada darling. My pet. Sweet- 
esther J heart. Don't cry love. Ah there poppit, what is it 
then? 
(Both aunts start fussing the couple but are unable to do any- 
thing except commiserate and get in each other s way while 
moving around trying to get in somewhere. They cannot 
reach either of the two. Dave and Ada stand locked together 
and rocking, their own misery being the centre of the aunts' 
faintly comic and frustrated concern) 
cissie (having tripped over Esther's/^). Get back to your deck 

chair, I'll handle this. 
Esther. Cissie, carry on knitting and leave off. You always 

were heavy-handed with people. 
cissie. That's how it should be. As soon as you start handling 

people you have them in tears. 
esther. And you treat every upset as though it was an 

industrial dispute. 
ada. Listen to those two. Anyone would think we were still 
fifteen. 

208 



I M TALKING ABOUT JERUSALEM 

dave. Feeling better sweetheart ? 

ADA. How can anyone feel depressed with those two old hens 
clucking round you. 

Esther. Here, let me tell you about the time Ronnie made a 
supper of rice. 

cissie. That's it, tell them about the time Ronnie made us a 
supper of rice. 

dave. Listen to them darling, don't they sound like a music- 
hall act? 

cissie. Ronnie invites himself to supper and says he wants to 
try out a special pork curry — 

Esther. A very kosher dish he assures us — 

cissie. We don't even like curry — 

Esther. Never mind, we agree. What a mess! A whole 
pound of rice he puts into a saucepan and he starts to boil 
it — so you know what happens when you boil rice — 

cissie. It swells! 

Esther. The whole pound of rice began to swell. And what 
does he do when it reaches the top of the saucepan? Heputs 
half of it in another saucepan and sets them both to boil. 
And do you think it was cooked ? 

cissie. Of course it wasn't ! And the two saucepans got full 
again — so he gets two more saucepans and halves them 
again. For two hours before we got home he was cooking 
rice — 

Esther. And by the time we arrived he had five saucepans 
and two frying pans filled with rice for a supper of three 
people. 

(Everyone is in a paroxysm of laughter until, as they emerge 
out of it, Esther suddenly remembers — ) 

Esther. Oh yes — there's some mail for you. 

dave. Thank God — at last ! 

Esther. At last, what? 

cissle. We thought all you wanted was a loan. 

209 



ACT THREE 

ada. You have to have people to buy the furniture as well 

you know. 
cissie. And there's no people ? 

ada. Some, but it's mostly for window sashes. 

Esther. What's so important with the letter then? 

dave. The letter is important because three weeks ago I had 
an inquiry for an originally designed suite of dining-room 
chairs and table and I sent in an estimate and this should be 
a reply. If they don't want it, it means I have to carry on 
doing window sashes. 

Esther. And what's Ada crying for ? 

dave. She's having a baby. 

(Cries of joy and surprise and 'muzzeltov and more fussing 
from the aunts) 

Esther. So what's there to cry about ? Are you sure ? 

ADA. Of course I'm sure you silly bitch. 

Esther. Right, then if you don't mind I'm going to say some- 
thing. 

dave. Esther, I think we're going to mind — 

Esther. I'm still going to say it. 

ada. Aunts, please, we're really very tired. 

Esther. For Gawd's sake ! It's not as though we're strangers. 
We're your aunts. All your life, till we die. 

dave. What are you going to tell us ? We're mad to stay here ? 
Everyone's told us this. Half our battle here has been 
against people who for a dozen different reasons have tried 
to tell us we're mad. 

Esther. Never mind about madness — but you've changed. 
You're not the same. Once upon a time we could talk to 
you. You got troubles? So tell us. What's the matter — 
you think we're going to laugh? 

dave. We're tired Esther, leave us alone, yes ? 

Esther. Nice life ! Lovely ! It's a great pleasure knowing you ! 
Open the letter. 

210 



I M TALKING ABOUT JERUSALEM 

dave. I know what's in the letter. Dear Mr Simmonds, after 
having carefully considered your designs and estimate we 
feel sorry to have to inform you — God ! I'm learning to 
hate people ! 

Esther (telling a story). My mother loved her children. You 
know how I know ? The way she used to cook our food. 
With songs. She used to hum and feed us. Sing and dress 
us. Coo and scold us. You could tell she loved us from the 
way she did things for us. You want to be a craftsman? 
Love us. You want to give us beautiful things ? Talk to us. 
You think Cissie and I fight ? You're wrong silly boy. She 
talks to me. I used to be able to watch everything on 
television, but she moaned so much I can't even enjoy 
rubbish any more. She drives me mad with her talk. 

dave. I talked enough ! You bloody Kahns you ! You all talk. 
Sarah, Ronnie, all of you. I talked enough ! I wanted to do 
something. Hands I've got — you see them ? I wanted to do 
something. 

Esther. Hands is the only thing? I'm a worker too. Haven't 
I worked ? From selling flags at a football match to selling 
foam cushions in Aylesbury market. From six in the 
morning till six at night. From pitch to pitch, all hours, all 
my life ! That's not work ? It doesn't entitle me to a house ? 
Or a fridge ? I shouldn't buy a washing machine ? How do 
you measure achievement for Christ's sake? Flower and 
Dean Street was a prison with iron railings, you remember ? 
And my one ambition was to break away from that prison. 
'Buy your flags' I used to yell. 'Rattles at rattling good 
prices' I used to try to be funny. So I sold rattles and now 
I've got a house. And if I'd've been pretty I'd've had a 
husband and children as well and they'd've got pleasure 
from me. Did money change me? You remember me, tell 
me, have I changed ? I'm still the same Esther Kahn. I got 
no airs. No airs me. I still say the wrong things and nobody 

211 



ACT THREE 

minds me. Look at me — you don't like me or something ? 
That's all that matters. Or no, not that, not even like or 
dislike — do I harm you ? Do I offend you ? Is there some- 
thing about me that offends you ? 

dave (simply). You haven't got a vision Esther. 

Esther. A prophet he is ! 

dave. No ! We should turn to you for prophecies ! With your 
twopenny halfpenny flags and your foam cushions ? With 
your cheap jewels, your market lies and your jerry houses? 

ada. Dave, sweetheart — there's no point — you'll only 
upset yourselves — and she doesn't mean — 

dave. No, no. She can take it. Straight Jane and no nonsense 
she says. Let's talk back a little. I know we decided not to 
bother to explain but I'm fed up being on the receiving 
end. I'll tell them. (To Esther) Once and for all I'll tell 
you — you call me a prophet and laugh do you ? Well, I'll 
tell you. I am a prophet. Me. No one's ever heard of me 
and no one wants to buy my furniture but I'm a bleedin' 
prophet and don't anyone forget that. As little as you see 
me so big I am. Now you look at me. I picked up my 
spear and I've stuck it deep. Prophet Dave Simmonds, me. 
With a chisel. Dave Simmonds and Jesus Christ. Two 
yiddisha boys — 

Esther. Hatred, Cissie. Look at our nephew-in-law, hatred in 
every spit. 

dave. Well, what have you left me for God's sake? You 
want an angel in me? Ten years I spent here trying to 
carve out a satisfactory life for my wife and kids and on 
every side we've had opposition. From the cynics, the 
locals, the family. Everyone was choking with their experi- 
ence of life and wanted to hand it on. Who came forward 
with a word of encouragement ? Who said we maybe had 
a little guts ? Who offered one tiny word of praise ? 

Esther. Praise pretty boy. 

212 



I M TALKING ABOUT JERUSALEM 

dave. Yes, praise ! It would hurt you, any of you? There isn't 
enough generosity to spare a little pat on the back? You 
think we're cranks — recluses ? Well, I'll surprise you, look 
— no long hair, no sandals. Just flesh and blood. Of course 
we need a little praise. (Dips in his pocket for coins.) Or 
maybe you want me to buy it from you! Like in the 
market ! Here, two half-crowns for a half-minute of praise. 
I'll buy it ! You can't afford to give it away ? I'll pay for it ! 
Five bob for a few kind words, saying we're not mad. 
Here y'are — take it ! Take it ! 

cissie. There ! You satisfied Esther ? Now you've upset him, 
you happy ? 

Esther (subdued). I know, I know. I'm just a silly old cow. 
You want to build Jerusalem ? Build it ! Only maybe we 
wanted to share it with you. Now open the letter. 

(Dave opens the letter, hut before he has had a chance to look 
at it the curtain comes down so that we do not know what 
it says.) 

Scene 2 

Three years later. 1959. 

The Simmondses are moving out. Sarah and Ronnie are there 
helping them. Everyone is that much older. 

Sarah is sweeping up the kitchen. Ada is attending to a third 
baby, who is in a carry-cot up stage. Dave is just taking a box off 
stage to where the removal lorry is waiting. Ronnie is beside a pile 
of books that are waiting to be packed away. 

But at this moment they are all listening to the radio. 1 

announcer. Captain Davies, Conservative, 20,429. J. R. Dal- 
ton, Labour, 10,526. L. Shaftesbury, Liberal, 4,291. Con- 

1 Alternatively, the words given here as a radio announcement could be read 
out by Ronnie from a newspaper, in which case instead of switching off the 
radio at the end of the announcement Ronnie would crumple up the news- 
paper. 

213 



ACT THREE 

servative majority 9,903. The Liberal candidate forfeits his 
deposit. These latest results bring the Conservative 
majority up to 93 and will ensure the return to power in 
the House of Commons of the Conservative Party for a 
third time in succession since the end of the war. Mr 
Gaitskell went to Transport House this morning to confer 
with other Labour leaders — he looked very tired — 

ronnie (switching off). Well — you've chosen the right time 
to return anyway. You came in with them and you go 
out with them — whisht. (Continues looking through hooks 
in silence.) I'm all washed up. I don't know why the hell you 
asked me to help with this morbid job. 

ada. Go home then dear boy. 

dave (returning with an empty tea chest). Here's the box to put 
the books in. 

ronnie. I said I'm all washed up. I'm complaining. (No 
response.) No one listens to me now. Funny that, everybody 
loo-ves me but nobody listens to me. I can't keep a job and 
I can't keep a girl so everyone thinks what I say doesn't 
count. Like they used to say of Dad. Poor old Harry — 
poor old Ronnie. But you forgive me my trespasses don't 
you Addie? Look at my sister, she's still beautiful. 

dave. It was good of you to help us cocker. 

ronnie. That's all I ever get away with — gestures. You give 

someone a hand and they think you're a saint. Saint 

Ronnie Kahn. 

(All continue with their respective jobs. The removal is in its 

last stages. Dave is going round picking up stray tools to 

place in a tool box. Ronnie sings to himself.) 

RONNIE. 

Come O my love and fare ye well, 
Come O my love and fare ye well, 
You slighted me but I wish you well. 
The winter is gone and the leaves turn green, 

214 



I M TALKING ABOUT JERUSALEM 

The winter is gone and the leaves turn green, 
Your innocent face I wish I never had seen. 

You realize you two that having come with explanations 
you must leave with explanations. 

ADA. Is anyone going to care that much Ronnie? 

ronnie. Yes, me '.Jesus, one of us has got to make a success of 
something. You can understand the Labour Party losing 
the elections again, they change their politics like a suit 
of clothing or something, but us — well you two, you 
put it into practice, God knows why you lost. 

ada. Let's forget it Ronnie. 

ronnie (jumping up). No, don't let's forget it. You can still 
change your mind. Let's unpack it all. Pay the removers 
and try again. There must be something — 

dave. Don't go on Ronnie, I keep telling you. 

ronnie. But you can't just pack up — 

dave. I said shut up ! 

RONNIE. 

The rope is hung and the noose hangs high 
The rope is hung and the noose hangs high 
An innocent man you have all sent to die. 

sarah. What is it, a funeral here ? 

dave. Any chance of a last cup of tea before we go Mum ? 

sarah. Tea I can always make. 

ronnie. Tea she can always make. 

There ain't a lady livin' in the land 
What makes tea like my dear old mum — 
No there ain't a lady livin' in the land 
What — 

What rhymes with 'mum' ? 
sarah. Everything he makes into a joke. 
dave. Did you ever hear what happened to Beatie Bryant, 

Ronnie? 

215 



ACT THREE 
RONNIE. No. 

dave. The girl you wanted to change. 

ronnie. Change ! Huh ! You know what my father once said 
to me ? 'You can't change people Ronnie' he said, 'you can 
only give them some love and hope they'll take it.' Well, 
Beatie Bryant took it but nothing seemed to happen. 

dave. Three years is a long time to go with a girl. 

ronnie. I don't regret it. Maybe something did happen. After 
all little Sarah, wasn't it you who was always telling us 
that you don't know people without something happen- 
ing? 

SARAH. I'm always telling you you can't change the world on 
your own — only no one listens to me. 

ronnie. We carry bits and pieces of each other, like shrapnel 
from a war. Ada's like you Sarah, strong ! I'm charming, 
like my father, and weak. O God! Isn't it all terribly, 
terribly sad. (Suddenly) Let's do an Israeli dance before we 
go — come on, let's dance. (Starts doing a Zanny Hora on 
his own.) The wandering Jews move on — bless 'em. Let 
there be music, let there be — 

ada. Stop clowning Ronnie, we won't be done in time. 

ronnie. Don't argue ! Don't sing ! Don't clown ! 

ada. You don't have to do anything. 

ronnie. That's right. I don't have to do anything — except 
pack up and go home. We're none of us what you could 
call 'returning heroes' are we ? If only we could squeeze a 
tiny victory out of it all. God, there must be a small 
victory somewhere for one of us. Maybe I was a good son 
eh? Before he died I used to wash Harry and shave him. It 
took him too long to walk so I used to carry him in my 
arms, like a cooing baby. Then I'd bounce him on the bed 
and play with him and he used to laugh, a really full 
laugh. Funny that, in the last months he couldn't talk but 
his laughter was full. Mummy even used to try to play 

216 



I M TALKING ABOUT JERUSALEM 

cards with him but he couldn't hold them. Sometimes I 
laid my head in his arms to make him feel he could still — 
(It is too painful to continue.) No — I don't have to do any- 
thing. Only the old worthies are left biding their time, 
waiting for the new generation. Look at old Mother there, 
like a patient old tigress — she's still waiting. Nothing 
surprised you did it Sarah? You still think it'll come, the 
great millennium ? 

sarah. And you don't ? 

ronnie. Well, I haven't brought it about — and they (of Ada 
and Dave) haven't brought it about, and the Monty Blatts 
and Cissie and Esther Kahns haven't brought it about. But 
then Dad said it would never happen in our lifetime — 
'It'll purify itself he used to say. The difference between 
capitalism and socialism he used to say was that capitalism 
contained the seeds of its own destruction but socialism 
contained the seeds of its own purification. Maybe that's 
the victory — maybe by coming here you've purified 
yourselves, like Jesus in the wilderness. Yes? No? (No 
response. Places last three hooks in box, reading titles out like a 
list of the dead and softly kissing each one.) Mother by Maxim 
Gorky. My Son, My Son by Howard Spring. Madame 
Bovary by Gustave Flaubert. Lovely sound that — Flau- 
bert. Ronnie de Flaubert. 

dave. Did you ever finish your novel ? 

RONNIE. No. 

dave. You've grown older in these last years, haven't you mate ? 

ronnie. Yes. 

ada. I don't think there's anything more to pack away. 

ronnie. (making it up). 

Pull down the blind, put away the stars, 

The lovers have left their fond house for the town, 

No more leaves will be gathered again 

And the last nightingales have gone. 

217 



ACT THREE 

ADA. Come on darling — put away your books and poems 

and let's be having you. 
ronnie. You re still smiling anyway. 
ADA. Well, we shall be back for the summer holidays. 
dave. Anyone would think it's your experiment that failed, 

you with your long face. 
ronnie. O my God, how near the knuckle that is. 
sarah. Come and have some tea and stop depressing each 

other. 
ronnie. And Mother says little. Quietly packs and takes her 

children home with her. 
sarah. I've been lonely for long enough Ronnie. A few more 

years and I'll be dead. I'm committing no crimes. 
ronnie. I never know whether to say at this point (melo- 
dramatically) 'we're all lonely' or not. As soon as I say 

something, somehow I don't believe it. Don't you find that 

with things? As soon as you pronounce something it 

doesn't seem true? 
(A cry of 'Any more' comes from offstage.) 
dave. The removal men are waiting. Right! Just this last 

case. Come on Ronnie. The rest of the stuff we'll leave for 

the holidays. 
ronnie. The radio too? 
dave. No, bring the radio. 

(Ronnie and Dave pick up packing-case and go off.) 
ada. Let's make it quick Dave, because Danny and Jake'll be 

waiting up for us. ( To Sarah) I wonder how the children'!! 

take to London ? 
sarah. Are you sure Aunty Esther met them at the station ? 
ada. Yes, we had a telegram. 

(Ronnie and Dave return) 
ronnie (trying to he cheerful). Righto me hearties. The cheerful 

side. Let's look at the rainbow. The silver lining. Because 

218 



I M TALKING ABOUT JERUSALEM 

remember — in the words of that immortal American 
prophet — (Does an Aljolson act.) 

When April showers may come your way 
They bring the flowers that bloom in May, 
So when it's raining have no regrets 
Because it isn't raining rain you know it's . . . 

(Gives up.) . . . etcetera, etcetera, et bloody cetera ! 
dave. I've found a basement workshop in London and I'll set 

up shop there. 
ronnie (sadly). A basement! The man who started work 

singing 'Linden Lea' in the open air returns to a basement. 
ada (after a silence). The sun is setting Dave. We really must 

be moving. 
dave (picking up again). Who knows, maybe people will buy 

furniture in town. They say you can sell them anything in 

London. 
ada. We've found a house — a roof over our heads. 
ronnie (jumping on crate). Oh bloody marvellous ! 

We've got sixpence, jolly jolly sixpence 

Di dum dee da to last us all our life 

Pom-pom to lend 

And pom-pom to spend 

And pom-pom to take home to our wives 

Hallelujah! 

ada( finally unnerved). Ronnie! 

dave (after a second). I can't make you out cock. Not at all I 

can't make you out. 
ronnie. I'm crying Dave, I'm bloody crying. 

(Everyone is unnerved. Everyone is feeling the reality of 
leaving. A long pained silence.) 
dave. So ? We're all crying. But what do you want of us. 

Miracles ? 
sarah. I don't know what's happened to you all. Suddenly 

219 



ACT THREE 

you're talking and then you're shouting and. then you're 
crying. Suddenly you start hitting each other with words. 

dave. Well, why must he put us on pedestals. 

sarah. You were the God that fought in Spain, Dave, 
remember ? 

dave (to Ronnie). Is that it? (Pause.) You can't really forgive 
me because I didn't speak heroically about Spain, can 
you? 

ronnie (reflectively). The war that was every man's war. 

dave. A useless, useless bloody war because Hitler still made 
it, didn't he, eh? And out went six million Jews in little 
puffs of smoke. Am I expected to live in the glory of the 
nineteen thirties all my life ? 

sarah. Sick! ... You're all sick or something. We won the 
last war didn't we? You forgotten that? We put a Labour 
Party in power and . . . 

ronnie (with irony). Oh, yes, that's right! We put a Labour 
Party in power. Glory ! Hurrah ! It wasn't such a useless 
war after all, was it, Mother? But what did the bleeders 
do, eh? They sang the Red Flag in Parliament and then 
started building atom bombs. Lunatics ! Raving lunatics ! 
And a whole generation of us laid down our arms and 
retreated into ourselves, a whole generation ! But you two. 
I don't understand what happened to you two. I used to 
watch you and boast about you. Well, thank God, I 
thought, it works ! But look at us now, now it's all of us. 

sarah. Did you expect the world to suddenly focus on them 
and say 'Ah, socialism is beautiful,' did you, silly boy? 
Since when did we preach this sort of poverty ? 

ADA (turning on Sarah). We were never poor! (Softer to 
Ronnie, putting an arm round him) You want reassuring, 
sweetheart ? I'll reassure you, shall I ? Remember what you 
said about carrying bits and pieces of each other ? Well 
it's true . . . 

220 



I M TALKING ABOUT JERUSALEM 

ronnie. The justifications! 

ADA. Will you shut up and listen to me for Christ's sake ? The 
kind, of life we lived couldn't be a whole philosophy, 
could it? 

ronnie. Did it have to be ? 

ADA. Exactly! Did it have to be. Any more than your life 
with Beatie Bryant or Sarah's life with Harry. Whose life 
was ever a complete statement? But they're going to have 
to turn to us in the end, they're going to . . . 

ronnie. Are you mad ? To us ? 

ADA. Us ! Us ! Because we do the living. We do the living. 
(Pause.) 

dave. What do you think I am, Ronnie ? You think I'm an 
artist's craftsman? Nothing of that sort. A designer? Not 
even that. Designers are ten a penny. I don't mind Ronnie 
— believe me I don't. (But he does.) I've reached the point 
where I can face the fact that I'm not a prophet. Once I 
had — I don't know — a — a moment of vision, and I 
yelled at your Aunty Esther that I was a prophet. A 
prophet ! Poor woman, I don't think she understood. All I 
meant was I was a sort of spokesman. That's all. But it 
passed. Look, I'm a bright boy. There aren't many flies on 
me and when I was younger I was even brighter. I was 
interested and alive to everything, history, anthropology, 
philosophy, architecture — I had ideas. But not now. Not 
now Ronnie. I don't know — it's sort of sad this what I'm 
saying, it's a sad time for both of us — Ada and me — sad, 
yet — you know — it's not all that sad. We came here, we 
worked hard, we've loved every minute of it and we're 
still young. Did you expect anything else ? You wanted us 
to grow to be giants, didn't you? The mighty artist 
craftsman! Well, now the only things that seem to 
matter to me are the day-to-day problems of my wife, my 
kids and my work. Face it — as an essential member of 

221 



ACT THREE 

society I don't really count. I'm not saying I'm useless, but 
machinery and modern techniques have come about to 
make me the odd man out. Here I've been, comrade 
citizen, presenting my offerings and the world's rejected 
them. I don't count, Ronnie, and if I'm not sad about it 
you mustn't be either. Maybe Sarah's right, maybe you 
can't build on your own. 

ronnie. Remember your phrase about people choking with 
their own experience ? 

dave. I remember a lot of tilings — come on, let's go. 

ronnie. That was your apology for defeat, was it ? 

dave (wearily). All right, so I'm defeated. Come on, let's go — 

ronnie (desperately). Then where do we look for our new 
vision ? 

dave (angrily). Don't moan at me about visions. Don't you 
know they don't work? You child you — visions don't 
work. 

ronnie (desperately). They do work! And even if they don't 
work then for God's sake let's try and behave as though 
they do — or else nothing will work. 

dave. Then nothing will work. 

ronnie (too hastily). That's cowardice! 

dave. You call me a coward? You ? I know your kind, you go 
around the world crooning about brotherhood and yet 
you can't even see a sordid love affair through to the end. I 
know your bloody kind. 

ADA. Dave ! This is so silly — 

dave. Well, I've tried haven't I? Everybody wants explana- 
tions and I've tried. Do you think I want to go ? 

ronnie. It wasn't sordid, you know Dave. I know I didn't 
see it through to the end but it wasn't sordid. Beatie 
Bryant could have been a poem — I gave her words — 
maybe she became one. But you're right. There isn't 
anything I've seen through to the end — maybe that's 

222 



I M TALKING ABOUT JERUSALEM 

why you two were so important to me. Isn't that curious ? 
I say all the right things, I think all the right things, but 
somewhere, some bloody where I fail as a human being. 
Like my father — just like poor old Harry. O Christ ! 
Look at me. 

(Ronnie sinks to his knees in utter despair. 

They stand and watch him a while. 

Ada moves to him, hut Dave holds her hack. 

Sarah is ahout to move to him hut Dave stops her with 

'Sarah!' 

Ronnie is to receive no more comfort. No one can help him 

now hut himself. 

Slowly, very slowly, he unfolds and they all watch him. 

Slowly, very slowly, he rises to his feet. He knows what is 

wanted of him hut still cannot do more than stand in a sort of 

daze, looking from one to another — then — ) 
dave (to Ada). Darling, did you post those letters off? 
ADA (she understands that they must indicate that they are going on). 

Yes, Dave, and the estimates went off too. 
dave. Where did you put the drawings ? 
ada (indicating hrief-case). It's all right, they're here. All those 
you've decided to keep I've rolled up into one pile. The 
rejects I burned last night. 
dave. Now don't forget, first thing tomorrow morning I 
must get in touch with the electricians and tell them to 
start wiring the place up. Then there's that appointment 
with Mrs What's-her-name for her bloody awful ward- 
robe. 

(Ada goes over to pick up the carry-cot.) 
ada. When we've finished unpacking tonight we'll make a 
list of all the things we must do — just before we go to 
bed. (She and Dave pick up cot.) Come on Simmonds 
number three, we'll soon be back again for your holidays, 
you can still grow up here, yes you can, or won't you care? 

223 



ACT THREE 



dave. Ronnie — lock up and stick the key in your pocket, 
there's a good lad. Sarah, you take your daughter's bags, 
God knows what she's got in them. 

(Dave picks up his brief-case and he and Ada go off with 

the carry-cot, still talking.) 
ADA. Are you sure you turned the calor gas ofTproperly ? 
dave. Positive. Now look darling — you mustn't let me 
forget to phone those electricians — Hey ! Did we pack my 
drawing boards away ? 
ada. Yes, yes, Simmonds. In those first boxes, don't you 

remember ? 
dave. Funny, I don't remember . . . 

ada (to Sarah and Ronnie). Come on, you two, the men are 
waiting. 

(They have gone off by now. Ronnie has locked the door and 

Sarah is waiting for him. He takes one of the baskets from 

her and puts an arm on her shoulder.) 
ronnie. Well Sarah — your children are coming home now. 
sarah. You finished crying, you fool you ? 
ronnie. Cry ? We must be bloody mad to cry, Mother. 

(Sarah goes off leaving Ronnie to linger and glance once 

more around. Suddenly his eye catches a stone, which he 

picks up and throws high into the air. He watches, and waits 

till it falls. Then he cups his hands to his mouth and yells to 

the sky with bitterness and some venom — ) 
ronnie. We — must — be — bloody — mad — to cry ! 

(The stage is empty. 

Soon we hear the sound of the lorry revving up and moving off. 

A last silence. 

Then — ) 



A LAST SLOW CURTAIN 



224 



I M TALKING ABOUT JERUSALEM 

HOOLYIT HOOLYIT 



4 



mt 



J [J J J 



• . J f - 



1. Hool-yit hool-yit baiz-a vin-tenYetzt iss ei - er 

2. Brent a licht-el er-getzt toon-kle Lesht mittzor-en 



4 



^^ 



m 



r r r r 



tseit 
aus 



Long- vet dor - en noch de- er vin - ter 
Rize die sho - ben fon d - ie lut - ten 



mm 



m 



mm 



r ir i r r 



Zu - mer i - is no-och vi - ite Long vet dor-en 
Fen- sterri-ist a - rati - aus Rize die sho-ben 



ftyj n 



^m 



gEEE! 



noch de-er vin-ter Zu - mer i - is no-och vite, 
fon d - ie lut -ten Fen- ster ri-ist a - raus. 



i 



fej 



COME OH MY LOVE 

Old American Folk Song 



1 



^ 



J J ^ 



S^5 



f 



-^T^ 


















rWLl 




fig b |> — # 




— — 






—A j — - 












J£2 — — )£. 1 


* ~A ' 


« 


— & 


' * • 





Date Due 



Due 


Returned 


Due 


Returned 


T^^ 


i 






^l* 








"OCTTg"! 


w~~ 






NOV l 2 1990 










THTf«T» 




















































\ 



























































































" 



UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 



3 12bE 0MMMb74Q M 







"*"*»»»„.»»»***